The status of the Airbus A380 has been questioned ever since the pandemic took its toll on the international travel demand. As flying operations became almost solely cargo and the skies fell quiet, some of the airlines wrote off the future of the Airbus A380 due to its operational inefficiency. However, others remained strong believers in the double-decker. Let’s take a look at how many airlines are likely to operate the Super Jumbo once international travel recovers.
Being the largest operator with a quite hefty fleet of Airbus A380s ‒ 117 with one on its way to retirement ‒ Emirates recently reaffirmed its belief in the double-decker. “The A380 […] will continue in the plan until the mid-2030s,” said Sir Tim Clark, while speaking during CAPA Live on February 10, 2021.
While other air carriers, such as Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) or Air France, have already farewelled their Airbus A380s, Emirates has already brought some of their Super Jumbos back to service. On June 1, 2021, Emirates restarted daily Dubai-New York services using Airbus A380, as the carrier is ramping up their schedule for summer.
Qantas is one of the operators that did not hurry to write off the Super Jumbo. In fact the Australian-based carrier multiple times reaffirmed that the Qantas’ Airbus A380 would return to the skies, once the international air travel recovers.
“If they [Airbus A380s – ed.note] do come back in when we expect them, at the end of 2023, we’ll activate the first six aircraft very rapidly because we’ll have the pilots to do it,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Executive Traveller on May 20, 2021.
Currently, Qantas has a total of 12 Airbus A380 aircraft in its fleet, as per planespotters.net data. Due to travel restrictions, all of the airline’s double-deckers are parked in Victorville Southern California Logistics (LCV) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), United States. The Australian airline grounded the aircraft in June 2020, saying that A380s would be of no use for at least three years.
British Airways has not flown their Airbus A380 aircraft since the temporary grounding in March 2020.
But British Airways CEO reaffirmed his confidence in reviving the Airbus A380 operations once the international air travel demand recovers. “[The Airbus A380] works very well for British Airways,” said Sean Doyle during the CAPA Live conference on April 14, 2021.
“We can fly it to many destinations, we flew it to places like Hong Kong and Johannesburg, it worked well in the markets like Boston. Even in the East Coast and Miami, we found that the A380 worked very well.”
Currently, British Airways has a total of 12 Airbus A380 aircraft standing at an average age of 12.7, according to the Planespotters.net data. Most of them are parked in Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD) aircraft storage facility in Spain.
China Southern Airlines
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 still being kept closed and the international air travel recovery is shadowed by COVID-19 variants and slow vaccination rates across the globe.
However, the final decision of China Southern whether to retire the entire fleet of Airbus A380 has yet to be made. At the moment, China Southern has a total of five Airbus A380 aircraft with an average of 9.8 years. Currently, three out of five airline’s Super Jumbos are in service, as per planespotters.net data.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) fleet of Airbus A380 stands at three, with an average of 2.3 years, making ANA the youngest Super Jumbo operator. While the entire ANA’s fleet of Airbus A380 are currently parked, the operator had no plans to ground them for good.
The Japanese carrier used its three A380s exclusively for flights to Hawaii. Following the coronavirus outbreak, the airline suspended the route on March 25, 2020, grounding the Super Jumbos. However, to keep the grounded aircraft in airworthy condition, the airline still had to ensure both ground maintenance work and a test flight within a certain period of time. Therefore, since summer 2020 ANA has been using its Airbus A380s to conduct flights to nowhere.
“Once flights on the route between Narita and Honolulu start to be operated twice a day, A380 aircraft will be phased in for the flights on this route for which tickets are currently being sold for the Boeing 777-300ER,” read the airline’s statement.
South Korea’s flag-carrier Korean Air has a fleet of 10 Airbus A380s with an average of 9.2 years, planespotter.net data shows. At the moment, one out of 10 Super Jumbos is in service.
The Korean Air Airbus A380, registered as HL7614, resumed operations in October 2020. Most of the flights using HL7614 were conducted from Seoul to Guangzhou, as per flightradar24.com data.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) had laid out plans to retire seven Airbus A380s, leaving the rest of its double-deckers in its fleet.
While many airlines are retiring their A380s, Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) remained confident enough to invest into its remodeling. The company announced it would remodel 12 Airbus A380s by the end of 2021. All the A380s will have the newest first class suites on the forward upper deck. There will be six first class suites, and two of the suite pairs can be made into double beds.
Currently, the entire fleet of Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 aircraft is parked in Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) due to decreased demand in international air travel.
South Korea’s air carrier Asiana Airlines has a fleet of six Airbus A380s standing at an average of 6.2 years. All of them are currently parked, the planespotters.net data shows. However, the airline has not laid out plans to oust the entire fleet of Super Jumbos just yet. In fact, during autumn 2020, Asiana has conducted flights to nowhere using its double-decker.
The ongoing Asiana’s merger with Korean Air would make the joint airline operating the second-largest Airbus A380 operator.
In total, only 15 airlines in the world operated the Airbus widebody. However, the travel demand collapse brought by the pandemic has been especially cruel for the four-engined double-decker. Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), Air France, Malaysia Airlines, Hi Fly, Etihad Airways and Thai Airways have already said it would discontinue flying Airbus A380. Qatar Airways, China Southern, on the other hand, hinted about their Super Jumbo fleet retirements.
This article was originally published on AeroTime News on June 3, 2021.