Air France is rumored to be considering the retirement of their A380 fleet as soon as 2024, as reported by La Tribune. According to upper management, ‘One aircraft is down a week’ and they can’t wait to find a suitable replacement.
What are the details?
Air France currently operates 10 Airbus A380s. Five of these aircraft will be retired by 2019-21. The other remaining five aircraft may be refurbished with renewed cabins starting in 2020.
The current A380’s have a somewhat tired fit-out, missing many of the modern passenger conveniences that other airlines boast. A380 operators like Emirates have amazing facilities, such as private suites, lie-flat seats in business and in-seat power.
Air France originally took ownership of the A380 back in 2009 and the cabin has only seen marginal improvements since then.
Why are they being retired?
There are a few reasons why Air France is set on retiring this series of aircraft.
The first is that they are not as profitable as smaller aircraft. A smaller aircraft is easy to fill up with passengers (and thus have a sold-out aircraft more frequently) and costs less to operate (weighs less and requires less fuel). Additionally, the A380 requires special airports (with long runways, taxiways, and extended gates) and is therefore limited in where it can operate.
Secondly, the A380 has had some performance issues at Air France. According to La Tribune, Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith prefers smaller planes that generate higher yields. Moreover, he is overwhelmed by the multiple failures on these devices. “Every week, there is one that is down”. An aircraft that isn’t flying is just an expensive paperweight.
What is their plan to replace them?
Air France wants to replace the A380s with a smaller aircraft. So far, they are looking at the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A330-900neo. Whilst an easy choice might be the unproven Boeing 777X or the new A350-1000, the former is still suffering delays and the latter is too expensive for the airline.
Of the 10 Airbus A380 that Air France has on file:
- Three are leased. The airline will choose to not renew these contacts in 2019-2020.
- Five are owned by the airline. Three of these are rumored to be upgraded soon.
- The last two are also leased, but their contracts don’t expire for a few more years and thus might be additionally updated with a new cabin.
Air France would prefer to update as few aircraft as possible. They would prefer to invest in building a new cabin concept for the A380 replacement when they get around to choosing an aircraft. We expect more news from the airline by October.
What do you think? Should Air France replace their A380 aircraft by 2025? What should they replace them with?