The A380 was once seen as the future of the aviation industry. But rising fuel prices and a passenger preference of frequency overcapacity has seen airlines quick to start retirement plans. Which airline will retire the A380 first? Let’s explore.
We begin with the airline that has the most A380s in its fleet; Emirates. With 112 A380 aircraft delivered (from an original order of 123 aircraft with options up to 162) the news that Emirates might retire their A380 would be news indeed.
So far, all we know is that Emirates plans to use the A380s until they break down, retiring them as their lease ends or they are fully paid off and retire a major overhaul.
“They are under retirement because we’ve got a major overhaul coming up and it’s best to take the old aircraft out – they’re all written down – and take the gear off them rather than buy a $25 million main landing gear. I need two, possibly three, to meet that [overhaul] requirement.” – Tim Clark, Emirates CEO
When Airbus canceled the A380, Emirates converted their remaining orders into A350 aircraft. Whilst these aircraft can’t carry the same amount of passengers as an A380, they can fly similar distances and will be able to maintain Emirates’ vast international route network.
The French flag carrier has a fleet of ten Airbus A380s based at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle Airport. However, the role of the aircraft in its fleet has already been put on notice in August 2019, when the airline made plans to retire the type by 2022.
“The current competitive environment limits the markets in which the A380 can profitably operate. With four engines, the A380 consumes 20-25% more fuel per seat than new generation long-haul aircraft and therefore emits more CO2. Increasing aircraft maintenance costs, as well as necessary cabin refurbishments to meet customer expectations reduce the economic attractiveness of Air France’s A380s even further. Keeping this aircraft in the fleet would involve significant costs, while the aircraft program was suspended by Airbus earlier in 2019.” – Air France press statement
Instead of refurbishing the cabins with the new business class, Air France is evaluating the A330neo, Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 as an A380 replacement.
ANA actually fields one of the youngest A380 fleets (only entering into service this year), with two out of three delivered so far. ANA has them operating from Toyko to Honolulu with perhaps one of the nicest fit-outs in the world. As the aircraft is brand new for ANA, it is unlikely that they plan to retire them anytime soon.
Plus we have to mention the amazing unique livery on each aircraft.
Asiana Airlines operates a fleet of six A380 aircraft. The airline has been struggling financially and it likely doesn’t help that they use the gas-guzzling A380. So far, the airline has actually decided to keep the type in their fleet despite efforts to reduce costs and streamline operations.
IAG’s British Airways operates a fleet of 12 A380s. They, so far, have made no retirement plans and actually plan to use them to phase out old Boeing 747 aircraft.
With new Boeing 777X’s and A350s on the way (check out our review of their new A350 here), British Airways would be in a good place to replace some of its older A380s.
China Southern Airlines
China Southern has a fleet of five A380s. Surprisingly, this is the only airline in the world to use the A380 domestically, on Beijing–Hong Kong and Beijing–Guangzhou routes, although these have not been very profitable. The airline also uses them to Los Angeles and Sydney.
So far the airline has made no plans to retire the type.
Etihad has not exactly followed suit with its southern rival Emirates. They actually only have 10 A380s in the fleet. Onboard. some passengers might experience ‘the Residence’, a two-roomed cabin that has its own bathroom and lounge area for extreme onboard privacy.
So far the airline has made no plans to retire the type, although we could expect this to change as the aircraft head towards their 10th year in operation.
Korean Air has a fleet of 10 A380s. Originally there was a rumor that the airline was planning to start retiring the type in 2018 but that year came and went without the aircraft leaving the Far East skies.
German airline Lufthansa has a fleet of 14 A380s but has already made plans to sell off six of the aircraft. According to World Airline News, “The 20 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners (above) and 20 additional Airbus A350-900 planes will primarily be replacing four-engine aircraft [A380s and 747s]. The new planes will be delivered between late 2022 and 2027.”
Malaysia Airlines, the distant relative of Singapore Airlines, has a fleet of six A380s. They actually tried to get rid of the aircraft back in 215 due to a financial crisis, but actually ended up keeping them for the time being. So far they don’t have plans to remove the aircraft from their fleet.
The Australian flag carrier has a fleet of 12 A380s. Qantas actually had an order this year for another eight A380s, which along with Emirates they canceled when Airbus folded production of the type.
Qantas plans to retire the A380 by 2030 .“We are reconfiguring the A380s as we speak. It will take a year to reconfigure all twelve of them. We are committed to operating the aircraft for another up to ten years,” Alan Joyce, the Qantas CEO, said to Airways Magazine.
The last of the Middle Eastern trio, Qatar, has a fleet of 10 A380s. They have only hinted that they will retire the aircraft when they reach 10 years old, which will be in 2024.
Singapore originally had a fleet of 12 A380s but has already started to retire aircraft with the first taken out of service in 2017. Singapore plans to replace the type with the A350 aircraft.
Thai Airways International
Rounding up this list is Thai Airways, who field a fleet of six A380s. With news that they are delaying the retirement of their 747 fleet, it is unlikely they plan to retire their A380 fleet anytime soon.
Does anyone else have A380s?
Above we covered the vast majority of A380s that are flying in the sky today. However, there has been one omission… Hi Fly’s A380.
As this aircraft is actually a retired Singapore A380, it gives hope that more of these amazing aircraft will find a second life as wet-lease aircraft or with very bespoke airlines.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!