Airbus A380 Ghost Flights: Airlines Try To Sustain Their Superjumbos

When it comes to aircraft, the Airbus A380 is one of the biggest casualties of the global health crisis. The widebody continues to largely remain out of regular commercial action after several months of restrictions and low passenger activity. Above all, the jet has been performing ghost flights as part of an initiative to keep trainee pilots certified.

Asiana Airlines coronavirus getty images
Carriers such as Asiana Airlines are trying to keep on top of their A380s. Photo: Getty Images

Keeping up with practice

Asiana Airlines holds six A380s within its fleet. However, since the middle of March, there has been hardly any passenger action with the plane. At the beginning of May, we reported that the South Korean outfit could be forced into performing ghost flights with its units. Now, a few months later, Bloomberg has confirmed that the company has flown the aircraft more than 20 times to nowhere, with no customers on board.

The A380 flew over South Korea for a few hours a day for three days in May to enable crew members to practice taking off and landing. Usually, pilots need to have taken off and landed a plane at least three times within the previous 90 days to maintain their credentials. Also, having the aircraft in the air ensures that defects are identified and keeps them fit between their spells in storage.

Another, perhaps more effective way for Asiana to undertake this training is a trip to Thailand to use a simulator owned by Thai Airways. However, this opportunity was thwarted due to travel bans. Most other prominent A380 holders, such as compatriot, Korean Air, own their own simulator programs.

Korean Air A380
Korean Air’s 10 A380 remain on the ground. Photo: Getty Images

It can be an expensive process to take off and land the jet, especially with no monetary returns on the journey. However, it would also be costly for an airline to have its pilots lose licenses.

Unique circumstances

Subsequently, South Korea’s transport ministry extended Asiana’s pilots’ flying credentials as a special exemption. Additionally, Japan’s aviation authority also provided similar extensions to All Nippon Airways, which holds two units of the type. These moves undoubtedly save a lot of money and limit unnecessary environmental impact.

According to Sam Chui, throughout June and July, all 10 of Etihad’s A380 aircraft been in the air for at least 20-30 minutes. These actions are part of a move to keep the UAE outfit’s pilots and planes operational.

Etihad Airways, Airbus A380, Airbus A350
All of Etihad’s superjumbos have flown this summer. Photo: Getty Images

Ghost flights were even more prominent during the early days of the spread of coronavirus across the globe. Amid the downturn in passenger activity, many airlines were performing these operations in order to maintain their slots at airports. However, aviation bodies soon became lenient with their rules amid the ever-changing situation.

Tough times for the A380

Several airlines are choosing to ground their holdings for the long run. This week, Qatar Airways affirmed that it wouldn’t consider hitting the skies with its units until the middle of next year. Meanwhile, Qantas and Lufthansa are mothballing their superjumbos for years to come.

Regardless, the cost of maintaining pilot licenses are just part of a broader expense list when it comes to running the A380 in the current climate. The jet was already on its way out of several fleets due to its inefficiencies. However, various airlines have been planning to bring forward the retirements or their units amid the impact of the pandemic.

What are your thoughts about the Airbus A380 ghost flights? Are you sad to see the lack of activity with the superjumbo? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.