The era of the Air France A380 is coming to an early but definite end. The airline is choosing to mark the occasion with a special two-hour farewell flight over France on Friday, June 26th.
The nine remaining Airbus A380s in the Air France fleet were supposed to see another two years of air time before being sent into retirement. However, the spring of 2020 and a pandemic that sent shockwaves throughout the world of commercial aviation had other plans.
In order to commemorate the early exit of the superjumbo from its fleet, Air France will operate one final farewell flight with the aircraft on Friday. Alas, no paying passengers will be on board, but Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith and Air France CEO Anne Rigail will reportedly join Air France crew, employees, and hand-picked guests on the goodbye mission.
Air France shared with Simple Flying that the flight will be operated as AF380. It will be flown by F-HPJH, which will take off from Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) on Friday, June 26th, around 15:30. It will then circle around France for a little over two hours before returning to CDG at approximately 17:45.
The airline also said it would be sharing some moments from the flight on its social networks, using #AF380.
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Averaging less than ten years
F-HPJH, the double-decker granted the honor to mark the occasion, joined the fleet in May 2012. It is just 8.7 years old. On average, the Air France A380 fleet hit 9.3 years. That is “hit” in past tense, as the carrier announced the retirement of the model on May 20th, effective immediately.
Air France said that the move was in line with its plans to operate a more competitive fleet with a smaller environmental footprint. As previously stated, it intended to phase out its A380s by 2022, even before the pandemic wreaked havoc on passenger demand. The airline had already sent the first one, namely F-HPJB, to the scrapyard back in February this year.
First European carrier to operate the A380
The French flag-carrier has had a complicated relationship with the double-decker plane. It received its first of the type in 2009, and it was the first European airline to offer passengers the opportunity to fly on the engineering marvel. The first Air France A380 commercial flight took off from Paris CDG to New York JFK on November 23rd, 2009.
However, it was not the success the airline had hoped for, and the initial enthusiasm quickly faded.
“It’s a tough airplane. At airports to board and to deplane takes a long time with special bridges required to accommodate the size. It takes a long time to get your bags, it uses more fuel. Operationally, it’s not the best airplane to use,” Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith commented at an IATA conference last year, almost exactly ten years after that first CDG to JFK flight.
The final A380 commercial flight was operated by the carrier on March 23rd this year, flying from Johannesburg to Paris CDG. By then, Air France had operated nearly 40,000 flights with the superjumbo, carrying almost 18 million passengers.