Is Airbus A380 making a comeback?
A decade has passed since the first A380 jetliner made its inaugural commercial flight with Singapore Airlines. And just a little while ago, the industry seemed convinced that the days of the Superjumbo were counted. But the double-decker has found a new life at Portugal’s Hi Fly, which recently began leasing the aircraft to carriers such as Norwegian Air Shuttle and Thomas Cook Group. Will this give the A380 program a boost it so desperately needs?
Ever since the beginning, Airbus has struggled to find customers willing to put the Superjumbo jet into service. In fact, it has struggled to find takers even in the second-hand off-lease market.
Back in 2016, the plane maker announced it will reduce A380 production starting from 2017. A lifeline for the program was thrown when Emirates inked a deal for 36 A380s – 20 firm and 16 options – in February 2018.
A month earlier, Airbus’ then-CEO John Leahy had even said that the program would be cut unless more sales came through. “If we can’t work out a deal with Emirates, then I think there is no choice but to shut down the program,” he was quoted as saying by The Independent.
As of June 30, 2018, Airbus stated it had 331 orders for the doube-deck plane in the books with 17 customers, having delivered 228 jets that are in service with 13 operators. Emirates is, by far, the largest with 162 orders, 104 deliveries, and 104 Superjumbos in service. Meaning, almost half of the aircraft have been delivered to a single airline.
But let us go back to April 5, 2018. That is when Hi Fly, a Portuguese airline specializing in wide-body wet lease, took delivery of its first A380, becoming the fourth European operator to fly the world’s largest airliner, behind Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa.
According to The Independent, Hi Fly signed an agreement to lease two A380s from their owner, the German leasing company Dr Peters Group, which itself got the aircraft from their previous operator – Singapore Airlines – at the end of their 10-year lease.
The good old SIA is, in fact, right behind Emirates in terms of A380 aircraft in operation, although the numbers are not as staggering: 24 orders, 23 deliveries and 20 jets in service.
The latest news on the A380 program came in on August 1, 2018, when Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia confirmed it is the first customer to wet-lease one of Hi Fly‘s Superjumbo jets.
The leisure operator used the double-decker for flights on two routes this week, from Copenhagen (Denmark) to Larnaca (Cyprus) and from Oslo (Norway) to Palma de Mallorca (Spain), as a stop-gap solution.
And then there’s the long-haul budget airline Norwegian, which, Bloomberg reports, announced on August 3, 2018, it will fly the first used A380 between London (UK) and New York (U.S.) this month in efforts to replace capacity that was reduced when some of its Boeing 787s were grounded for Rolls-Royce engine troubles.
Hi Fly is currently providing aircraft – mainly A330s and A340s – for airlines like Norwegian that have been hit by problems with some engines fitted to their Dreamliners.
Airbus must be hoping that the emergence of a secondary market will give a boost to sales of the A380. But for now, it looks more like the Superjumbo is just being passed around by operators needing a quick fix to their capacity issues.
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