Etihad Airways has informed the media that it will indeed by placing a mega order worth nearly US$ 10 billion from Boeing or Airbus during the summer for 100 more planes i.e. 50 firm + 50 options. It will be ordering planes in all 3 categories i.e. 500 seater, 300 seater and 140 seater and would like them to be delivered from 2013 onwards.
EY wants planes delivered by 2013 which means the A 350 has no chance if one goes why what EY states! The only planes that can be delivered by 2013 or from 2013 are the A 380/B 748 in the VLA category, the A 330/A 340/B 787/B 777 in the medium size category and the A 320 in the narrow body category. It is quite obvious that for the narrow body fleet that EY will choose the A 320 over the B 737NGs.
For the VLA category, all hints lead towards a follow up order for additional A 380s. The only reason why I feel that EY is feeling the pressure to order more A 380s because they know that EK will be using them on the key trunk routes of LHR, NYC, SYD, BKK and India which are key markets of EY as well. For Etihad to compete effectively against EK by trying to match the low unit costs per seat that the A 380 can offer on long haul flights, it probably feels the necessity to order more of these aircraft type before its too late.
The main interest one feels lies in the medium sized aircraft category as this is where the main order is to be won. The complex issue is that EY operates both the B 773ER and the A 330/340 family of aircraft hence it could end up ordering both aircraft but that is unlikely.
Personally speaking, if I were in charge of EY and needed to order approximately 40 medium sized jets for delivery by 2013, I would opt for the following :
14 B 772LRs as these aircraft offer better economies of scale when flying ultra long haul routes nonstop such as AUH-USA, AUH-Australia, AUH-YYZ and AUH-Brazil in the short term future compared to the A 345. The 14 B 77Ls ordered would be used to fully replace EY's A 345 fleet in the following manner :
2 for daily AUH-SYD
2 for daily AUH-MEL
2 for daily AUH-PER
2 for daily AUH-ORD
2 for daily AUH-Brazil
2 for daily AUH-LAX/SFO
2 for daily AUH-IAD
4 for the eventual double daily AUH-NYC
B 773ERs for high density regional and long haul routes within a 8-14 hour flying time radius of AUH.
A 332s to expand on medium density medium haul routes into Europe, Africa, India and the Far East.
B 789s should be ordered to fully replace EY's A 332 fleet within a decade.
I would not order more A 345s / A 346s because they are economically an inferior aircraft to operate on ultra long haul routes compared to the B 77Ls and B 77Ws. If anyone doubts this statement of mine, please take a close look as to why AF, AC, EK, QR, SQ and CX adopted similar fleet replacement policies. EY should follow what QR is doing i.e. set up an aircraft leasing firm and dry lease out their A 345s / A 346s when the time is right.