Air France announced that the nine Airbus A380 aircraft that remained in its fleet would not take off again, two years before their official withdrawal.

Shortly after his arrival at the helm of Air France-KLM Group, CEO Benjamin Smith took the decision to retire the A380. “The current competitive environment limits the markets in which the A380 can profitably operate,” stated the group at the time, adding that “keeping this aircraft in the fleet would involve significant costs, while the aircraft programme was suspended by Airbus earlier in 2019.” By 2022, the whole fleet was supposed to be retired and in November 2019, the first superjumbo was sent back to its lessor.

Air France retired its first Airbus A380, marking the beginning of the withdrawal process of its fleet of ten superjumbos. The aircraft should soon be returned to the lessor.

However, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced Air France to immobilize the nine remaining A380s and the low demand expected for the coming months, Air France-KLM decided to pull the plug early. On May 20, 2020, the group announced “the definitive end of Air France Airbus A380 operations.”

The early retirement of the A380s and their depreciation in the accounts of Air France-KLM will result in a financial impact of €500 million. The superjumbo will be replaced by new generation aircraft, including the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787, that have yet to be delivered.

The decision should also help Air France reach its carbon objectives that condition the €7 billion in state aid that it should receive from France. The company committed itself to a 50% reduction in its CO2 emissions per passenger and per kilometer between 2005 and 2030.

Caught in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Air France has to make concessions. As a condition to the state aid granted by France, the airline will have to reduce short-haul routes to only connecting lines if a rail alternative exists.