Hi Fly, the Portugal-based ACMI operator, announced that it would phase-out its sole Airbus A380 aircraft at the end of its lease term, seemingly killing off the already-fragile second-hand market for the double-decker.
Hi Fly, an Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) operator, took delivery of its first, and only, Super Jumbo in July 2018. Previously, the aircraft belonged to Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) and was the third Airbus A380 the airline phased out.
“The decision to not extend the initial agreed lease period came as a consequence of the covid-19 pandemic, that drastically reduced the demand for very large aircraft,” read the airline’s statement released on November 3, 2020. The company plans to replace the Airbus A380 with additional Airbus A330 aircraft, which is “a smaller and more adequate aircraft for current market conditions,” commented Hi Fly.
The company was one of 15 airlines that ever operated the Super Jumbo. However, with the breakout of coronavirus and the subsequent halt of international travel, many have shied away from using the aircraft type, including many airlines who permanently withdrew the double-decker from service.
Registered as 9H-MIP, the double-decker was dedicated to operate charter flights or provide additional capacity for various airlines under wet-lease agreements. For example, Norwegian Air Shuttle was one of the airlines that wet-leased Hi Fly’s A380 in Summer 2019, when the low-cost carrier ran into trouble with its Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Rolls-Royce TRENT 1000 engine.
Most recently, the aircraft was converted to carry cargo in its passenger cabin, Hi Fly announced on July 7, 2020.
Hi Fly’s phase-out of the A380 seemingly closed the second-hand market for the aircraft before it even opened. The 14-year-old jet was the only aircraft that switched operators after its initial operator withdrew it from service. The Portuguese also planned to take up another ex-Singapore Airlines A380 (registered as 9V-SKB), according to planespotters.net. The plans never materialized, as the jet was returned to its lessor, Dr. Peters Group.
On October 29, 2020, Emirates airline, the biggest operator of the aircraft type in the world, confirmed that it has retired its first Airbus A380 aircraft.