Air France Retires All Of Its Airbus A380 Aircraft

Air France has today announced the retirement of its nine remaining Airbus A380 aircraft. The French flag carrier had already intended on a 2022 retirement before the outbreak of the current pandemic.

Air France, Airbus A380, Retirement
Air France today pulled the plug on the Airbus A380 program. Photo: Getty Images

It’s become quite clear that the Airbus A380 is a less than ideal aircraft for modern times. Given its size, it must be largely filled to be economically viable.

Air France had previously communicated that it would study an early retirement of the giant of the skies when it last released its financial results. Unfortunately for some, today the airline finally pulled the plug on the Airbus A380 fleet.

Nine aircraft being retired

At its height, Air France operated ten Airbus A380 aircraft. However, the French flag carrier had already begun to retire the giant of the skies. The first to go made a final journey to Knock in Ireland earlier this year. This left the carrier with nine A380s at the start of the current crisis.

In a press release the airline said:

“The Air France-KLM Group announces today the definitive end of Air France Airbus A380 operations.”

Air France, Airbus A380, Retired
Air France’s fleet of A380 aircraft has an average age of just 9.2 years. Photo: Getty Images

Air France attributed the immediate retirement to a desire to operate a more competitive fleet with higher performance and a reduced environmental footprint.

The Air France A380s are the second set of A380s to become casualties of the current crisis. In April, Lufthansa announced the immediate retirement of six of its double-decker giants.

Air France A380 ownership

There are two different ownership types involved with Air France’s Airbus A380 fleet. Five of the aircraft are owned by Air France or on a finance lease. The other four are on operating leases, owned by the Dr. Peters Group.

According to the airline, retiring the A380 fleet immediately will set them back by a total of €500 million ($550 million). The airline will book this expense in the second quarter as a non-current cost/expense.

Lufthansa, Airbus A380,
Two Airbus A380s have already been dismantled. Photo: Tarmac Aerosave

Why are airlines retiring the A380?

Some airlines are starting to retire the Airbus A380 for the same reason that they are not currently operating them. In the case of Air France, the carrier had intended to retire its fleet in the next two and a half years before the current pandemic.

To make flying an Airbus A380 economically viable, the plane has to be largely filled. Thus, it makes sense on high-density slot restricted routes. The aviation industry is currently dealing with its biggest crisis to date. Demand is not expected to recover until 2023 at the earliest.

All this adds together to mean that Air France will struggle to fill the A380 before it was already due to be retired. As such, for them, it makes sense to scrap the type immediately. Since the start of the current crisis, the Air France-KLM group has also brought forwards the retirement of the Airbus A340 and the Boeing 747.

Will you miss the Air France Airbus A380? Let us know your memories of the type in the comments!