Air France is retiring its Airbus A380 earlier than anticipated. It is not the only airline to plan its future without the «Superjumbo». An overview.
On Tuesday (July 30th), Air France brought great joy to Airbus with an order for at least 60 A220 aircraft. However, there was also a setback for the European aircraft manufacturer. At the same time, the French airline announced that it plans to phase out its entire fleet of ten Airbus A380s by 2022. In fact, two years sooner than planned.
Air France’s decision to retire their A380s is part of a whole series of rejections of the former prestige aircraft. The A380 program was declared dead in February when Airbus announced the end of production in 2021. Previously, Emirates, the main operator, canceled an order for 39 aircraft. But the A380s already produced are also in danger of disappearing from the sky. More and more airlines are planning their future without the «Superjumbo»:
The French national airline took delivery of ten A380s. In fact, twelve A380s were ordered, but Air France changed the order to three additional Airbus A350-900s. Last November, the airline showed that it no longer desired the «Superjumbo» and announced the halving of its A380 fleet. Air France has repeatedly delayed the long-overdue modernization of its cabins. Because the cabin upgrade on the double-decker is expensive and the other long-haul models such as the Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and the Airbus A330 allow more flexibility in the interior, the management decided to thin down the fleet of A380s. Now the company has announced its intention to liquidate the entire A380 fleet.
Again, the A380 is due to disappear completely from the fleet. After a decade in operation, all ten units are scheduled to leave the airline by 2024. The decision was communicated the day before the announcement of the production stop. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker had not been convinced by the aircraft for a long time and described the A380 as “too big and too heavy”.
Following Singapore Airlines and Emirates, the Australian company was the third operator of the giant bird. Qantas took over twelve of the planned 20 aircraft. The remaining orders were canceled. The airline has also announced the end of its current A380 fleet: Qantas plans to have its A380s phased out by 2029.
One cannot picture Emirates without the Airbus A380. With more than 110 aircraft in its fleet, the airline is by far the largest operator of the «Superjumbo». (Second place goes to Singapore Airlines with only 24.) Apparently, Emirates’ current business model seems to have been built around the A380. But the airline from Dubai has also already announced when it intends to retire its A380. The A380s are to be flown until around the mid-2030s.
The definitive end of the only German A380s is not planned for the time being. However, Lufthansa has decided to thin out the A380 fleet. The airline is selling six of its 14 «Superjumbos» back to Airbus. This is planned to take place between 2022 and 2023.
Airlines with a desire for more A380s
Apart from the five airlines mentioned, the A380 flies with ten other airlines. In Europe, these are British Airways (12 aircraft) and the Portuguese wet-lease specialist Hi Fly, which currently operates a former Singapore Airlines A380. Hi Fly is currently determined to add another used A380 to its fleet by next year. British Airways is also thinking about growth rather than phase-out, as IAG CEO Willie Walsh explained to aeroTELEGRAPH this summer.
Others without specific plans
A380s also fly in Asia. Etihad (10 aircraft) is the only one of the big three Gulf airlines that has not yet made a statement on the end of its A380 aircraft. Korean Air (10), China Southern (5), Thai Airways (6) and Asiana (6) have also remained silent. All Nippon Airways ANA has just purchased the first two A380s and is expecting the third one to arrive.
And scrapped A380s
Launch customer Singapore Airlines was the first airline to farewell some of its A380s. Already in 2016, it did not renew the leasing contract for the first aircraft. A year later, four more A380s experienced the same fate. Last winter, two of the decommissioned «Superjumbos» were dismantled. Singapore Airlines intends to continue using the remaining 19 A380s indefinitely, however.
Malaysia Airlines also had precise plans for a flotation. The financially troubled national airline actually wanted to sell its six A380s and rely on the Airbus A350-900 in the future. But because of allegedly poor sales opportunities on the second-hand market, Malaysia Airlines backed away. The airline founded the charter subsidiary Amal, where the A380s have been used for pilgrim flights since last February.