Singapore’s Changi Airport could become a casualty of Etihad Airways’ new long-haul fleet expansion when the airline cuts its Changi stopover on one of its Australian routes next year.
Etihad’s newly announced routes will see Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners fly directly between Brisbane, Australia and the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi route from June 2015. It currently uses Airbus A330-200 aircraft on the Singapore stop en route between the two cities.
Etihad president and CEO James Hogan described the move as part of “our global network development … [that] supports a long-term vision to provide travelers with an extensive range of destinations.”
More pertinently, Etihad is supporting its own cost reduction with the removal of Changi’s airport charges, plus it will be getting more airtime out of the aircraft on the same route, as well as making the most of the 787’s fuel efficiency. This could be the first of a list of operators that cut out intermediary airports on long-haul flights using the range of 787 and Airbus A350s to provide economic one-stop transport on intercontinental legs.
The issue Etihad will face is customer take-up. The new longer run will mean passengers have to sit continuously in the same seat for the 13 hours or so the journey takes. Previous attempts at ultra-long haul have seen mixed results—Singapore Airlines’ red-eye flights from Changi to New York and Los Angeles took up to 18 hours, but were pulled after a few years due to critical load factors leading to rising fuel costs as well as passenger fatigue.
The Brisbane-Abu Dhabi route was flagged by Hogan as part of Etihad’s push into the far corners of Asia, and was backed up with the introduction of flights to Phuket, Thailand and Perth, Australia before the end of 2014. It is assumed these would both be nonstop. Hogan also announced a broad strategic partnership agreement with Philippine Airlines (PAL), covering codeshare flights, loyalty programs, airport lounge access, joint sales and marketing, domestic air passes, and the coordination of ground operations at the airlines’ Abu Dhabi and Manila airport bases.
Hogan described the moves as part of the airline’s “expansion [that] will create new opportunities to enhance our codeshare agreements and align operations with key airline partners” and underlines the carriers policy of non-alliance operation combined with individual agreements—or partial takeovers.
The PAL-Etihad agreement also includes cargo, with belly-hold cargo capacity sharing between Abu Dhabi and Manila, as well as connecting into Africa, Australia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, with both airlines concentrating on high-value cargo, such as pharmaceuticals.