Airbus A380 Through The Years
The short-lived Airbus A380 program has become another victim of the coronavirus pandemic, as many airlines are retiring some of the very large aircraft, or entire fleets. Even before the coronavirus crisis, the A380 was uneconomical for most airlines, with a few exceptions such as Emirates Airline. In COVID-19 market conditions, there are not nearly enough passengers to justify its use.
As of July 2020, there were 251 net orders for the A380. Of that number, 242 aircraft have been delivered to 15 operators, including Air France, Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA), Asiana, British Airways, China Southern, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Hi Fly (second hand), Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
Most A380s are currently grounded and many of them will most likely never return to service. Here is the current status:
Air France phased out its fleet of 10 A380s, two years earlier than planned. The oldest aircraft was delivered only in 2009.
British Airways has 12 A380s in storage and is questioning whether such large aircraft would be needed again.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways plans to bring the A380 service back again in the future. Lufthansa was initially planning to keep eight of its 14 A380s when it expected long-haul demand to return faster. Six of the type were sold back to Airbus. Currently, the airline is moving toward a decision to not return any of the A380 to revenue service. If they return, they would only fly from Lufthansa’s Munich hub, where the terminal infrastructure is a much better fit for A380 operations.
Qantas transferred all 12 A380s to Victorville, California, for long-term storage. It will take three years for Qantas to get its fleet back in air—depending on the global coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions.
Qatar Airways, which operates 10 of the very large aircraft, expects to have the fleet grounded over the next year or year-and-a-half. Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker told Aviation Week, that’s not all A380s will return in service. Singapore Airlines currently has no timeframe when its fleet of 19 A380s could return to service, when it makes economic sense. The second-hand market remains uncertain.
Only one former Singapore Airlines A380 found a new operator, wet-lease specialist Hi Fly from Portugal.
Currently, there are only two airlines in the world that are operating A380s—China Southern Airlines, which has five in its fleet, and Dubai-based Emirates Airline. However, the number of Emirates A380s in operation must be marginal. It only operates the A380 from Dubai to Amsterdam, Cairo, Paris, London Heathrow, Toronto and Guangzhou, out of a fleet of 115 aircraft. The number of A380 destinations is expected to grow further.
Air Transport World /Aviation Week correspondent Kurt Hofmann has covered several A380 deliveries and milestone events over the years.
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