The reduction is the second batch of A350-1000 cuts that Airbus has suffered from Etihad in recent months, as the carrier cancelled an order for six of the aircraft from the European plane maker in December. The airline has now more than halved its order for the twin-engine jet from 25 to 12.
The cancellation is a major setback for the largest variant of the next-generation A350, which Airbus has positioned to compete against Boeing’s 777. Etihad has yet to provide an explanation as to why it has slashed its orders for the aircraft, which has seen its development pushed back by two years due to an overhaul in its design.
Qatar Airways and Emirates – the two largest customers of the A350 – have both said they are still not satisfied with the design of the aircraft.
London-based aviation analyst Saj Ahmad said he believes the latest cancellations by Etihad could spell the end for the A350-1000 programme.
“Etihad is annoyed at the changes being made to the A350-1000 and is no longer convinced that the airplane can work according to the mandate and missions that it has planned as part of its expansion strategy,” he said. “To that end, with just 62 A350-1000s on Airbus’ books, and the threat of Emirates also looking to cancel their orders, the programme is doomed.”
Ahmad believes it is ‘highly unlikely’ that Etihad will keep the remaining 12 A350-1000s that it has on order.
“And with just four customers to date, saddled largely with the big three Arab airlines, it’s hard to see how Airbus can do anything to stop them from either demanding yet more changes, thus risking further delays to the jet, or from them walking away – Airbus knows its stuck between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “They may have kept Boeing out when they won these orders, but they will have had to do some pretty hard bargaining to win them – translated, these Arab carriers can and will walk away with their deposits if they want to and there’s nothing Airbus can do.”