A380 Update: Which Airlines Will Fly It And Which Will Retire?

While we are by no means done with the pandemic, air travel and passenger traffic have been moving in a positive direction in the past few weeks. This has meant that some airlines are putting their Airbus A380s back in service – albeit slowly. Meanwhile, other airlines have decided to wait it out and abstain from making a clear decision for A380 service-resumption or full retirement. Let’s see where airlines stand this week.

Etihad A380
The Etihad A380 features The Residence. The only three-room suite on a commercial aircraft. Photo: Etihad

The A380s that are currently flying

At the exact time of writing this article, data from FlightAware indicates that only three Airbus A380s are physically in the air, flying. All three belong to Dubai-based carrier Emirates. The services these superjumbos are flying to and from Dubai (DXB) are:

  • London (LHR)
  • Toronto (YYZ)
  • Amsterdam (AMS)

Emirates is also flying the A380 Paris, Cairo and Guangzhou. Its network will grow further on 16 August with scheduled A380 services to Toronto.

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Emirates, Airbus A380, Clark Philippines
Just 11% of the Emirates Airbus A380 fleet is currently operational. Photo: Dubai Airports

Speaking of Guangzhou, while the only three A380s in the air are Emirates flights, China Southern is another carrier operating the quadjet. In fact, it is the only carrier to have operated the A380 consistently throughout this crisis. China Southern flies the jet from its main hub in Guangzhou (CAN) to the following cities:

  • Vancouver (YVR)
  • Sydney (SYD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)

Recent reporting indicates that the airline is flying a series of special flights to Paris as well.

China Southern has been operating the A380 throughout the pandemic. Photo: Sergey Kustov via Wikimedia Commons.

Airlines that are still storing their A380s

This is the category with the most A380s and A380 operators. Many are waiting and watching the overall situation, reluctant to ‘pull the plug’ but still not ready to fly the aircraft either. Here’s what we know about A380 carriers around the world:

  • Asiana: The South Korean airline is flying ghost flights with its fleet of A380s, keeping its pilots’ certifications valid.
  • ANA: Its two A380s are still grounded, while the third remains undelivered and is with Airbus in Toulouse, France.
  • Etihad: An executive with the airline said it still has plans to re-introduce the jet, but only when the time is right, and demand rises.
  • Korean Air: Data from Airfleets.net suggests that the entire fleet has been parked since March.
  • Hi Fly: Last month, the wet lease operator’s lone A380 was modified (seats removed) to accommodate cargo. The most recent data from FlightAware indicates that it flew a “ghost flight to nowhere” on August 5th to keep the aircraft active. The plane took off from its base in Beja, Portugal, and returned there an hour later.
  • Qatar Airways: The airline has committed to storing its A380s until next summer.
  • Lufthansa: Speaking to Bloomberg, Klaus Froese, in charge of Lufthansa’s Frankfurt base, said that Lufthansa wouldn’t fly the Airbus A380 for at least two years. It had already retired seven of its 14 A380s.
  • British Airways: The airline has yet to schedule the A380s for passenger service. However, we do know some of its A380s have flown out of storage in Chateauroux, France to London Heathrow. A recent move took place on August 15th.
  • Malaysia Airlines: The carrier had been using its A380s for cargo in recent months. However, news of the airline and its superjumbos has been quiet as of late.
  • Qantas: At the end of July, VH-OQC was the 10th Qantas A380 to arrive in Los Angeles ahead of its entrance into long-term storage. Another two A380s are in Dresden, Germany, where they are undergoing interior retrofits.
  • Thai Airways: Thai’s A380s are sitting in storage.
  • Singapore Airlines: Some Singapore Airlines A380s are at the APAS facility in Alice Springs, Australia, while others remain at Singapore Changi Airport.

Apart from the above list, Air France made the tough decision last month to retire its entire A380 fleet.

A game of ‘wait and see’

The situation will continue to evolve as airlines monitor demand from travelers and also keep a close eye on their financial circumstances. Analyzing the two factors and the costs versus benefits, carriers will decide what the ‘right time’ will be to bring the superjumbos out of storage, back in the air.

Do you have any predictions for certain airlines and the A380? Let us know in the comments.