Etihad Airways is cutting more than half of its freighter fleet, leaving just four aircraft in the run-up to peak season.
Five of its Airbus freighters were grounded at the start of the year and are now in the process of being sold.
“It is normal airline industry business practice to continuously review aircraft requirements and to make modifications to the fleet when and where necessary,” said an Etihad spokesperson.
However, The Loadstar reports customer speculation that Etihad may be preparing to withdraw from operating freighters entirely, as four freighters are not adequate for winter volumes.
“Rotating four freighters in the peak period is untenable, because of maintenance, reliability and consistency issues,” said one customer, who was not identified. “You only need one aircraft [to] pick up a maintenance issue and there’s a major problem, impacting service.”
Etihad suffered $2.01 billion in losses in 2016, which it managed to reduce to $1.52 billion last year, as well as boosting revenue. Two of its partners, Alitalia and Airberlin, went into administration.
Industry analysts are considering the possibility that Etihad may instead focus on its cargo capacity on passenger flights, which would reduce the need for a dedicated freighter fleet.