What Will Happen To Air France’s First Retired Airbus A380?

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Air France has retired its first A380 from its fleet. This is the first of many retirements as the airline phases out the aircraft completely by 2022. This aircraft, in particular, is a brother of the Hi Fly A380 and it has lead to much speculation of where that aircraft might be going.

Air France A380
Time is running out to fly the A380 in Air France livery. Photo: James Rowson via Wikipedia

What are the details?

Just yesterday morning after a flight from Johannesburg to Paris, Air France retired the A380. The aircraft was then returned to the lessor who flew it all the way to Malta. Once the aircraft landed, it was taken to a hanger to be repainted and all the Air France livery stripped from the airframe.

“The current competitive environment limits the markets in which the A380 can profitably operate. With four engines, the A380 consumes 20-25% more fuel per seat than new generation long-haul aircraft and therefore emits more CO2.

“Increasing aircraft maintenance costs, as well as necessary cabin refurbishments to meet customer expectations reduce the economic attractiveness of Air France’s A380s even further. Keeping this aircraft in the fleet would involve significant costs, while the aircraft program was suspended by Airbus earlier in 2019.” – Air France press statement

The aircraft’s tail number is F-HPJB and it served with Air France for 10.5 years.

What might happen to the aircraft?

There are a few different options for the future of the aircraft.

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The first is scrapping. Just recently a scrapping and recycling company finished packing away the first A380 in their facility in France. The aircraft took 11 months to take apart bit by bit, with up to 90% of the components being recycled as spare parts for other A380s, other aircraft, or other industries all together!

However, this particular aircraft doesn’t seem bound for that same destiny. Why would the lessor go to all the effort of repainting the aircraft (and believe me, a whole A380 worth of paint is expensive indeed) only to have it scrapped away?

Then that leaves us with the second option; that the A380 will be sold or leased to a new airline for service somewhere in the world.

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air-france-a380-retirement
Air France will remove all of its A380s by 2022. Photo: Air France.

Who would want the A380?

Surprisingly, there are actually a few different airlines who wanted an A380 the first time around and never picked one up. Could they be tempted to now take the A380 for a cheaper price and fully paid off? And who would that be?

Here is the list of airlines who originally wanted an A380:

  • Virgin Atlantic – swapped for the A350 instead and seemed to lack the density of routes that required an A380.
  • Air Austral – originally wanted two aircraft in an all-economy configuration, but never pulled the trigger. Actually did hire the Hi Fly A380 for a few trips last year, however.
  • Hi Fly – The wet-lease carrier was rumored to actually be hunting around for a second A380; perhaps this could be their lucky day.
HiFly operates A380 on behalf of other carriers. Photo: HiFly

Alternatively, if not an airline that doesn’t have the A380, what about an airline that wants another A380?

In a previous article, we touched on the various airlines and their plans to retire the A380 and only a few popped who still had confidence in the type. Perhaps the Air France A380 will go to the likes of:

  • Emirates, which operates the biggest range of A380s and needs a new aircraft as a backup.
  • British Airways, who want to maintain routes as their Boeing 747s are retired (and until the new Boeing 777X delays are fixed).
  • Or a magnitude of other carriers who might need the aircraft as a backup.

What do you think? Who will take up the aircrafts mantle? Let us know in the comments.

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