A380s Secondhand Market Weaker Than Thought
Early in 2019, Airbus’ salespeople had to accept the harsh reality that the market for new A380s was too slow for production to be sustained beyond 2021. They now seem to have concluded that the secondhand market also is weaker than they thought. And so the program is moving to a phase where the keywords will be “dispatch reliability” and “spare parts,” rather than “new operator.”
Asked whether Airbus has a target number for placing pre-owned A380s, Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer answered in the negative. “We do not see a major role for us in remarketing,” he told members of AJPAE, the French aerospace journalists association.
In March, Sunny Guglani, then head of A380 product marketing, had some ambitions for the secondhand market. “We are convinced it will be an opportunity for more carriers to afford A380s, and we are going to support and promote this market,” he told French daily Les Echos at the time. Lufthansa had just announced it would return six of its 14 A380s to Airbus in 2022 and 2023. The new priority is supporting current operators. Airbus is focusing on continuity of operations, says Scherer. At the least, Airbus executives may want to shore up the aircraft’s reputation.
Air France has begun retiring its A380 fleet, and Air France-KLM group CEO Ben Smith was one of the company officials who publicly criticized the aircraft’s performance. “This is the poorest operating aircraft in the fleet. We have enormous amounts of delays on this aircraft and this fleet has the highest rate of cancellations,” he said in November. “Getting these aircraft out sooner rather than later is going to help the operations at Air France.” Though that fleet is only 10 aircraft strong, said Smith, they “drive a lot of decisions.”
Perhaps the most worrying evidence about the viability of the A380’s secondhand market has been the difficulty Dr. Peters, a Germany-based lessor, has had in placing ex-Singapore Airlines aircraft. Since November 2017, the carrier has returned four. “We have talked to numerous airlines about both a follow-on lease and a sale. . . . The best economic solution turned out to be the part-out route,” says Christian Mailly, Dr. Peters’ head of aviation. That option was used for two of the four aircraft.
Currently, 27.8% of the global in-service A380s are in Asia-Pacific.
This is an abbreviated version of an article by Thierry Dubois and Helen Massy-Beresford that appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology.
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