Once seemingly floating on a sea of money to invest in aircraft and pay for whatever they wanted, the ME3 – often grouped together but in fact arch-enemies with Qatar very much the odd man out, they’ve all been suffering.
Some of it is their own doing, vast expansion plans, failed investments in foreign airlines, over capacity, rising staff and fuel costs, weak demand, have all hit them in one way or another. Qatar however, literally under siege from a blockade by its neighbours, has found itself riding a wave of patriotism and being the small states only real way in and out of its geographic boundaries.
Etihad is the smallest, it’s suffered an appalling level of mismanagement from its equity partners schemes that have in essence, seen it let Alitalia, Darwin, AirBerlin and JetAirways slide into bankruptcy, liquidation or near extinction.
It slashed its own cargo fleet to just five 777F’s, laid off pilots, put aircraft in short-term storage and underwent a savage financial review. It slashed its orders for new aircraft, much to the dismay of Boeing and Airbus.
Having done that it now doesn’t have the vast pool of cash supplied by the government of Abu Dhabi to finance more aircraft.
Even having ditched most of its 777-9 order, cutting it to 6 from 25, reducing its A350’s by 42 to just 20, restructuring and cutting routes and jobs, it still faces a massively expensive court case in Germany over its behaviour around AirBerlin. Some analysts say it could be liable for up to €2 billion in costs, fines and compensation.
That leaves it with no money, so in order to pay for the down payments on new aircraft, it needs to borrow around $600 million. Then its got to find the rest when it comes due.