Coronavirus: How many A380 remain in the skies?
As the aviation industry is caught in the coronavirus crisis, airlines are grounding large parts, if not all, of their fleet. In a situation where dramatic passenger demand drop is coupled with exponential increase of global travel bans, one of the first aircraft types to go became the Airbus A380. But how many of them remain in the skies and which airlines still fly the Superjumbo during the COVID-19 Crisis?
After Emirates has parked most of its fleet, including all Superjumbos, which airline is now the biggest Airbus A380 operator in the world?
Airlines parking Airbus A380 fleets in full
Even at the best of times, there were only 15 airlines operating the Superjumbo. Since the beginning of the crisis, over half of them (eight) have already grounded their entire A380 fleets, including carriers like Lufthansa, Korean Air, Air France, Etihad, and even Emirates.
Korean Air, whose president fears it could not survive the crisis, grounded ten A380s. Lufthansa, which operates 14 superjumbos, took the same decision, as it suspended almost half of its routes.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak had even started, Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith was already pointing to the Superjumbo and naming various issues associated with it. While Smith’s first response, back in mid-2019, was to cut the airline’s A380 fleet (consisting of nine aircraft) in half, he later announced that Air France would retire the aircraft completely by 2022. Now, during the crisis, the carrier has parked all nine of its double-deckers.
However, the greatest impact for the A380’s disappearance from flight radars was made by Emirates, the largest operator of the type in the world. In early March 2020, when other airlines were beginning to weigh in the feasibility of keeping the wide-body in their fleets, Emirates was still faithfully flying the type, but reportedly looking to defer the delivery of its final eight A380s.
Then the coronavirus situation got worse and the UAE closed its borders on March 24, 2020. Flights to the country were suspended until April 9, instantly affecting two major airlines based in the UAE ‒ Emirates and Etihad Airways. As of March 31, 2020, only 11 aircraft (freighters) of Etihad’s 102 planes-fleet remain in service. All ten carrier’s A380s have been parked. Similarly, Emirates has also parked the better part of its fleet (238 of 269 aircraft), including all 115 A380s, based on planespotters.net data.
Asiana Airlines, operator of six, has already parked five of their wide-bodies. However, the one aircraft that officially remains in service (registration number HL7634) was seen flying just twice for the past seven days: from Seoul to Sydney on March 29 and back again the following day. As of March 31, 2020, Asiana Airlines is suspending a number of its routes, including Sydney.
Airlines still flying Superjumbo during COVID-19 Crisis
On the opposite side of the spectrum to the airlines above, Thai Airways, an operator of a small A380 fleet of six, has kept all of them in service, according to planespotters.net data as of March 31, 2020.
At the moment, British Airways and Qatar Airways are officially the largest A380 operators in the world with nine aircraft each officially remaining in service.
British Airways have parked only three out of its 12 giants. However, some of the planes accounted as “in service” have not been seen operating flights for the past couple of days, and BA’s flight schedule does not indicate any A380 flights in the upcoming days either, which makes the real status of the airline’s Superjumbos obscure.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has only grounded one of its ten double-deckers and all nine remaining planes embarked for a flight at least once within the past two days (March 30-31). The Gulf carrier has recently increased capacity, specifically to Australia. Several countries have utilized these seats to repatriate their citizens from Australia and other countries in Asia-Pacific.
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