What Aircraft Types Have Been Retired Most Due To COVID-19?

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly taken its toll on the aviation industry on several levels. Amid the drop in demand and global travel restrictions, most airlines were forced to ground most of their aircraft. With these planes in storage, many carriers decided to retire some of their jets sooner than planned. Unsurprisingly, some types have had more early retirements than others.

Air France, Airbus A380, Retired
The Airbus A380 is one of the aircraft types most impacted by the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Challenging times

Several operators were already planning to let go of particular aircraft due to factors such as their age or inefficiency. However, the global health crisis catalyzed these transitions.

Meanwhile, some airlines may not have been planning to say goodbye to some types, but due to the market being shaken up, they have had to restructure their operations. Here is a look at the models that have been retired the most during this tough period.

Boeing 747
There will be fewer units of several types taking off due to the impact of the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

The beginning of the end for the A380

There were high hopes for the Airbus A380. Since its introduction in 2007, over 240 of the planes have been built. There was a massive buzz around its launch with its impressive size and power. The double-decker holds a capacity of around 555 seats. Yet, it is certified for up to 853 passengers.

Despite the fanfare, it did not take long for airlines to start considering the plane’s retirement. The cost of both the airliner and the fuel to keep it running deterred many prospective operators.

Subsequently, last year, its manufacturer announced that the A380 project will come to a close. In February, the parts for the final A380 were transported to Airbus’ final assembly line in Toulouse.

Lufthansa, Airbus A380, Frankfurt
There won’t be any Lufthansa Airbus A380s flying out of Frankfurt following the carrier’s plans to reshuffle its fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Phasing the superjumbo out

Airlines are also stopping operations with the jet. Last month, Air France formally announced that it is retiring all of its A380s. The flag carrier of France was initially going to phase it out by 2022, but it soon felt that there was no time like the present.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa is ending A380 operations out of its Frankfurt home and will only perform flights with the jet out of Munich. Altogether, it is grounding 50 percent of its superjumbos.

It could take a while for the long-haul sector to recover following the industry shakeup. Therefore, with the A380 already under review before the pandemic, it could soon be retired by more carriers. The aircraft was one of the first types to be mass grounded amid the outbreak. So, there could be more long-term implications for the jet.

Air France, Airbus A380, Retired
Air France’s fleet of A380 aircraft had an average age of just 9.2 years before they were retired. Photo: Getty Images

The end of the Queen’s rule

The Boeing 747 is one of the most iconic planes in aviation history. It was the first commercial widebody when it was introduced back in 1970. Despite its popularity for the last 50 years, it’s now becoming a rare treat to see the aircraft in the air.

With the Queen of the Skies coming to an end of her reign, several airlines are opting to make use of the current groundings to retire their units. Virgin Atlantic was going retire the jumbo next year but brought this event forward to last month. All of the British outfits’ seven 747-400s will no longer be seen on passenger services.

Virgin Atlantic, Boeing 747, Retirement
Virgin’s Boeing 747 aircraft became a cultural icon over the decades. Photo: Getty Images

More to come

Meanwhile, Qantas has written its 747-400 out of its schedules. Even though it hasn’t formally made an announcement, it will likely retire it sooner than later, depending on how the situation pans out this year.

One of the first aircraft casualties came back in March with the retirement of KLM’s 747s. After being part of the Dutch carrier’s family for 48 years, its last flight was from Mexico City to Amsterdam on March 29th.

Like the A380, there are likely more airlines planning to let go of the icon from their services. Operators such as British Airways have been considering an early retirement for the legendary plane.

KLM, Boeing 747, Reactivated
KLM was a long-term partner of the Boeing 747 before it retired the aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Across the continents

Several other plane types won’t return to the air with certain airlines even after the pandemic is over. American Airlines has confirmed that its 757, 767, and E190 aircraft will remain on the ground. Additionally, it is retiring 19 Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft. The Dallas-based company has also accelerated the retirement of its A330-300 jets.

Fellow US outfit Delta is also making overhauls within its fleet. The Atlanta-based firm is retiring its MD-88 and MD-90 narrowbodies this month. Meanwhile, All of Air Canada’s Embraer aircraft are exiting its fleet. Altogether, the flag carrier of Canada is letting go of 79 older units, including 767 and A319 jets.

Another key early retirement comes at the hands of Singapore Airlines. The carrier has confirmed that it will stop operations with its remaining Boeing 777-200ERs due to the consequences of the pandemic.

American Airlines E190
Embraer is also feeling the wrath of the virus. Photo: Getty Images

End of an era

Sadly, there won’t be many more opportunities to fly on some revolutionary aircraft in the future. However, despite these farewells, there is a pattern emerging that most of the retirement plans were already in motion.

Altogether, the COVID-19 outbreak has primarily allowed airlines to reshuffle their fleets during the downturn in flight activity. Ultimately, the A380 and the 747 are the most notable plane types to be affected by the pandemic when it comes to retirement.

However, other modules, such as the 767 and E190, are also being impacted. Nonetheless, no aircraft is entirely safe from being cut during the current climate.

What are your thoughts on the retirements of these aircraft types? Are you sad that these airlines won’t be flying these planes again? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.

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