Air France is the latest airline to consider ending their relationship with the Airbus A380. With a costly upgrade planned, the airline is now evaluating alternate options when it comes to their A380 fleet. This could see the A380 withdrawn from Air France’s fleet sooner rather than later. In the meantime, passengers may never get to see an upgraded cabin on an Air France Airbus A380.
Air France’s A380 retirement
Originally, Air France anticipated the withdrawal of five Airbus A380 aircraft starting from the end of 2019. This would represent half of their fleet. Although the A380 would be quite young, the lease on those aircraft expires at that point. Thus, it makes sense for Air France to avoid investing in the A380. However, the five A380s owned by Air France would undergo a retrofit.
A new option
Air Transport World reports that, at the Paris Air Show, Air France’s CEO Benjamin Smith indicated that the A380 may forego retrofits and instead be retired. After all, each aircraft would require around €30 – €40 million for a retrofit due to the sheer size of the aircraft. The question is whether or not Air France determines if it is worth keeping the A380 around.
Why the A380s need a retrofit
Air France’s A380s feature a woefully outdated business class product, which pales in comparison to others flying across the Atlantic. While Air France features forward-facing lie-flats and reverse herringbone seats on some aircraft, their A380s feature an outdated angle-flat hard product. With limited privacy and a 2-2-2 configuration, Air France’s A380s aren’t very premium compared to some current and soon-to-be-flying products.
In order to modernize this cabin, Air France will have to make a major retrofit. They could either go for a 2-2-2 lie-flat or a 1-2-1 configuration. However, this would require a significant investment. And, if Air France can’t make the economics work with their A380s, it is probably better for them to retire the aircraft.
The A380 retirement trend
The A380, though still a passenger favorite, is falling out of favor with airlines. Four engines use a lot of fuel and filling the aircraft can prove to be a monumental task. Lufthansa, Qatar, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines are looking to offload their A380s relatively soon.
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Furthermore, even the darling A380 customer, Emirates, recently decreased their order book for the aircraft in favor of more fuel-efficient twinjets. Air France really isn’t starting a new trend with early A380 retirement. Rather, they’re examining whether or not it is worth it to jump on the bandwagon.
It is likely that Air France will choose to retire the A380 earlier rather than later. The ultimate goal at Air France right now is:
- Fleet simplicity
- Efficient aircraft layout
- Product consistency
- Employee engagement and stronger financials
Removing the A380 will help with most of those goals. Although, Air France does have a brand new product on their new A350 which likely is billed as a more efficient use of cabin space. At the end of the day, losing the A380’s massive fuel bills will likely help improve Air France’s bottom line.
Do you think Air France will retire the A380 early? Let us know in the comments!