While the COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on international air travel, airlines are reviewing the future of their wide-body aircraft. 

On April 14, 2021, China Southern Airlines (ZNH) senior executive indicated that the fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft might be retired amid uncertainty of international air travel recovery. 

“The largest aircraft in our fleet, such as Airbus A380 is still under our consideration on how we can solve this problem,” senior vice president of China Southern Airlines (ZNH), Guoxiang Wu said during the CAPA Live event. “Not only for China Southern but also for many airlines, we must be thinking about the A380 and whether it's too large for the routes.”

China Southern Airlines (ZNH), the only Airbus A380 operator in China, raised doubts about the world’s largest passenger aircraft relevancy, as the borders are kept closed and the international air travel recovery is shadowed by new COVID-19 variants and slow vaccination rates across the globe.

“The operation cost is very high, and to meet the future demand for the international routes, we still do not have the signal of recovery in the coming years. So we must be thinking about the structure of our fleets, especially for the widebodies,” Guoxiang explained. 

However, the final decision of China Southern Airlines (ZNH) whether to retire all fleet of Airbus A380 has yet to be made. 

At the moment, China Southern Airlines (ZNH) has a total of five Airbus A380 aircraft. All of the airline’s Super Jumbos are in service, according to the Flightradar24.com data. All five A380s are mostly operating from Southern China to Australia, Europe, the United States and Japan.

During the live conversation at CAPA, China Southern Airlines (ZNH) disclosed that the airline relied only on the domestic market as it has seen full recovery in China. As for international traffic capacity, one of the Chinese “Big Three” airlines said that it is operating at only 10% of its pre-pandemic levels.

“We need to restructure our fleet, including the retirement of old aircraft, some widebody aircraft, and cut some deliveries of new aircraft and restructure the financial leasing structure,”  Guoxiang clarified. “We need to be looking at our structure and our business model.”

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