There is an old Shakespeare line “me thinks she doth protest too much” – the implication being that a stringent impassioned denial, or protest, that seems somehow disproportionate to the facts, would indicate the opposite. It’s one of those human intuition things.
This week Etihad went out of its way to to deny something that hadn’t been made public in the first place and follows on a long list of quiet but significant moves the airline has been forced into to keep itself solvent.
First without announcing it, it withdrew its A340 fleet and sold them to a British re-purposing group.
Second, it withdrew from service 5 virtually brand new A332F’s and put them in storage – right at a peak in air cargo demand that’s not been seen in the history of air cargo.
Third, it’s been withdrawing is 772LR’s from service, again with no warning and very quietly.
Fourth, it’s been persuading a considerable number of pilots to take unpaid leave for up to a month at a time on a rotating basis.
It’s divested it’s ownership in AirBerlin which collapsed because of it, Darwin which collapsed because of it, Alitalia which again collapsed and is being sold off because of Etihad.
So, when CAPA (aviation analysts) issued a private report for membership only that wasn’t even put on their website, suggesting Etihad would divest from Indian carrier JetAirways by the end of 2019, (it owns 24%), Etihad went public with denials that seemed totally disproportionate to the allegations. Unsurprisingly, nobody believes them. The denials were very public, when the allegations in an analyst report had been very private. By denying it so vehemently, it’s convinced everyone it must really be true.
Late last year Emirates (literally just 50 miles down the road from Etihad, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the principal members of the United Arab Emirates), made it clear it could see a future where the two airlines operated more closely. Etihad didn’t deny that, and there is plenty of reason to think that Etihad, struggling to compete in an environment rammed full of high-end airlines, all of which are facing growing challenges from neighbours, may be the first to succumb – as an independent business, but the brand is unlikely to disappear.