Etihad Airways reveals first A380 superjumbo

Abu Dhabi's state-owned Etihad Airways showed off its first A380 superjumbo and unveiled its new branding as it seeks to up the battle in the luxury stakes and continue its rapid growth.

Etihad has ordered 10 of the superjumbos, which it plans to use on routes between its Abu Dhabi hub and London from December. 27.

Flights to New York and Sydney are next in line as it takes delivery of four planes next year.

Etihad Chief Executive James Hogan said it was too soon to say whether the airline would place orders for more of the jet, which has been slow to sell for its manufacturer Airbus.

"Let's get these 10 in place first and then we can look over the horizon," he told journalists at an event in Hamburg to mark the 'roll-out' of the airline's first A380 from the paintshop at the Airbus factory just outside the city.

The CEO of the Airbus planemaking division, Fabrice Bregier, took a bullish tone. "I am sure you will buy more," he told Hogan at the event.

The CEO of Qatar Airways, which last week took delivery of its first A380, has been quoted as saying he may order more of the superjumbos, of which it has 10 on order with options for a further 3.

Etihad is switching to new geometric brown and gold branding on the tail and Hogan said the entire fleet would be flying in the colours within three years.

Created by major brand consultant Landor Associates in partnership with Etihad Airways, the new livery is inspired by traditional Emirati design patterns, the landscapes of the desert and the geometric shapes found in the modern architecture of Abu Dhabi.

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The result is a "striking and unique" livery design, which will present Etihad Airways as the airline of a progressive and innovative cultural hub, firmly rooted in its rich history.

The new livery was unveiled as Etihad Airways' first A380 rolled-out of the paint hangar at the Airbus Finkenwerder facility in Hamburg, Germany.

James Hogan, president and chief executive officer, Etihad Airways, said: "Only a few months ago Etihad Airways unveiled the new cabin interiors for our A380 aircraft and we are now proud to show the world how this aircraft will look on the outside.

"The striking new livery also continues our commitment to breaking from convention and doing things differently. This is a real divergence from the norms of traditional airline livery design and will stand out in the sky and at every airport we fly to."

The design pattern named "Facets of Abu Dhabi" uses a color palette which reflects the varying hues of the landscape of the UAE, from the darker sands of Liwa to the lighter colors seen in the Northern Emirates.

The design development involved researching design options among Emiratis and international travellers to help select the final "winning" livery.

Peter Knapp, global creative officer of Landor Associates, said: "Etihad Airways is undoubtedly a leading airline on the international stage and this new livery is a real step change in the industry."

Etihad's A380s will be fitted with a three-room suite comprising a living room, ensuite bathroom and bedroom with double bed for two passengers, dubbed 'The Residence'.

The airline is even training a butler at the Savoy Hotel who will serve on the flights.

Hogan said the suite was already booked for the first flight from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow on Dec 27 and interest was strong. "This aircraft will change air travel forever," he said.

Emirates Airline, one of the first to offer showers for first-class customers and whose A380s include an onboard bar, has said it is working on a way to introduce private bedrooms onboard in response to Etihad's move.

The plane, with a list price of around $US414 million ($A473.4 milion) and space for 525 passengers in a traditional three-class configuration, is seen as too large by many operators, who fear they will struggle to fill the seats.

The largest A380 customer, Emirates, which is taking 140 of the planes. It has said it is prepared to buy more A380s if Airbus updates the plane with new fuel-saving engines.

Hogan declined to say whether Etihad was interested in a revamped option, although Airbus's Bregier said that Emirates was the only prospective customer interested in a re-engined version.

Etihad, founded in 2003, in July reported a 28 per cent jump in first-half revenues to $US3.2  billion ($A3.7 billion) as it continues to increase the amount of passengers and cargo it carries.

Under Hogan, who took over as CEO in 2006, its revenues have grown from $US300 million ($A343 million) to a prospective $US7.4 billion ($A8.5 billion) this year.

MCT and Reuters

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