Etihad Airways is selling its five Airbus A330-200 Freighters as part of moves to boost cargo yields and focus on "core" routes from Abu Dhabi, a top executive at the Gulf carrier has disclosed.

Abdulla Mohamed Shadid, managing director of cargo and logistics, insists that Etihad remains committed to a freight operation that now spans five Boeing 777Fs and belly space on passenger aircraft.

"The economics were not viable," Shadid says of the A330-200Fs, adding that Etihad is in the "advanced stages" of selling the aircraft.

Etihad only recently acquired the jets. The last joined the fleet in 2017.

But Etihad pulled the five aircraft from service at the beginning of this year, Shadid says.

Their planned sale stems from a review that Etihad undertook in response to weak cargo conditions in 2015 and 2016, he says.

"You ask yourself: are you too exposed to these market [cycles]?" Shadid says.

Removing the aircraft from service has reduced Etihad's freight tonne-kilometres 15% year-over-year. But the company has since upped utilisation of its 777Fs, resulting in "better economics", Shadid says.

"We eliminated bad capacity and focused more on escalating good capacity," he adds.

Conceding that Etihad's cargo unit cannot compete everywhere, Shadid says the company is seeking to boost revenue on "core trade" routes from Abu Dhabi to Europe, Asia and Africa.

Etihad is particularly focused on carrying more e-commerce and high-value cargo, like horses, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and precious metals, Shadid says.

The carrier transported some 900 horses in the first quarter, and recently launched FlightValet, a service through which users can ship cars.