Etihad Aviation Group chief executive Tony Douglas and Stan Deal, Boeing executive vice-president, have unveiled a wide-ranging collaboration at the Dubai air show, centred on the introduction of a 787 in a special "Greenliner" livery to champion the industry's sustainability efforts.
The tie-up also includes a wide-ranging maintenance and support agreement.
The "Etihad Greenliner"-themed 787-9 will be delivered new from Boeing in the special livery and introduced onto the airline's network in January, initially between Abu Dhabi and Brussels.
Douglas, who is adamant the initiative is "not just a box-ticking exercise", says the aircraft will be used by Etihad and Boeing to explore environmental sustainability initiatives while operating across the airline's network. He extends an invite to join the "eco partnership" to the wider industry, from equipment suppliers to airspace regulators.
"The rapid growth of air travel has increased aircraft carbon emissions, and it is the responsibility of the aviation industry to reverse this trend," says Douglas. "The 'Etihad Greenliner' will highlight the shared commitment of Etihad and Boeing to advance sustainable practices in aviation."
Etihad currently operates 36 787-9s and -10s and its next aircraft is due for delivery next week. "The 787 represents a third of our fleet. By 2023 we will have 51 787s and it will be 50%," says Douglas.
The airline is the largest Dreamliner operator in the region and has signed a strategic partnership signed with Boeing centred on the 787. The tie-up comprises commercial and technical agreements worth around Dh800 million ($218 million), covering services such as a landing-gear overhaul programme, as well as airframe components and maintenance planning tools.
Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer of Etihad Airways, sees the airline becoming the region's "centre of excellence" for the 787: "We believe with the growing number of customers for this aircraft, there will need to be somewhere in the Middle East where everybody comes for knowledge, experience and support. And making Abu Dhabi that place is great for us."
Etihad says it is still working on a number of sustainability initiatives in parallel with the Greenliner programme. It expects to announce these in the coming weeks as it prepares to introduce the aircraft on its route network.