Air France used the A380 for less than 11 years. In this time, it had regularly scheduled service to 15 destinations from Paris CDG, with JFK, Los Angeles, and Johannesburg the most important. Yet Air France was not a big A380 operator, with just a 5% share of all seats.
Air France took delivery of its first A380 on October 30th, 2009, perhaps more than partly from political obligation and not just the aircraft’s size and relevance at bustling and slot-constrained airports. Its first revenue-generating service came less than a month later. On November 23rd, it took off from Paris CDG to New York JFK, a route that remained central to its A380 story.
CDG to Heathrow
The following summer, Air France deployed the ‘superjumbo’ on particular flights from CDG to Heathrow. This route is 216 miles and has a typical flight time of around 40 minutes. The author of this article remembers flying the aircraft on this route. While booked in economy, the author was upgraded to first-class. Despite the short duration, it was a remarkable experience.
Air France wasn’t a big A380 user
Air France was never a big user of the A380, as shown in the figure below. It had no more than (almost) 2.7 million seats in one year, OAG data shows. This peak was achieved in 2019 – the year before everything changed. Everything was then on the table, and decisions could be speeded up, including bringing forward the retirement of the A380 to 2020 rather than the planned 2022.
In that peak year, Air France had just a 4.3% share of all A380 seats. It was the world’s seventh-largest user of the type, behind Etihad Airways, which has said the aircraft is no longer commercially viable. Air France was one place ahead of British Airways, which remains committed to the aircraft.
Air France’s A380 routes
Air France only used the A380 from Paris CDG, and it had seven routes in 2011: Dubai; Johannesburg; Montreal; New York JFK; San Francisco; Tokyo Narita; and Washington Dulles.
The airline used the A380 on 15 routes on a regularly scheduled basis, summarized below. Note: ‘until the end’ means planned to operate in 2020.
- Abidjan: 2014 and until the end
- Atlanta: one-off in 2017, then regular service in 2019
- Dubai: 2011-2012, then in 2019
- Hong Kong: 2014-2017
- Johannesburg: 2010 until the end
- Los Angeles: 2012 until the end
- Mexico City: 2016 until the end
- Miami: 2014 until the end
- Montreal: 2011-2012
- New York JFK: 2009 until the end
- San Francisco: 2011, and then 2014-2019
- Shanghai: 2013 until the end
- Singapore: 2012-2013
- Tokyo Narita: 2010-2014
- Washington: 2011 until the end
It also used the aircraft on three one-offs: Atlanta on December 12th, 2017; Cancun on November 27th, 2013; and Rio de Janeiro on August 22nd, 2016. Cancun’s one-off was to celebrate both the airline’s 80th anniversary and 15 years at Cancun for Mexican airport operator Grupo ASUR.
JFK was #1
Of Air France’s 15 routes, only three had more than one million seats: JFK; Los Angeles; and Johannesburg. Dubai, meanwhile, was least-served.
- JFK: 1,925,166 seats between 2011-2019
- Los Angeles: 1,465,250
- Johannesburg: 1,459,743
- Washington: 870,170
- Shanghai: 824,019
- Mexico City: 717,756
- San Francisco: 662,951
- Tokyo: 493,080
- Miami: 434,583
- Abidjan: 422,296
- Hong Kong: 356,172
- Montreal: 211,440
- Singapore: 124,577
- Atlanta: 108,360
- Dubai: 77,778
Abidjan is interesting. On its face, it is not an obvious A380 destination. But that’s not the case. It’s a high-yielding one, analyzing booking data obtained from OAG shows, with one of the highest fares from Paris to Africa. This is from strong premium demand.
Did you fly Air France’s A380s? Comment below!