British Airways Removes First A380 From Teruel Storage

The fleet of A380s parked at Teruel is one plane smaller today. G-XLEA, the first A380 delivered to British Airways, took off this afternoon and is heading home to London. This is the first A380 to take off from Teruel since the airport began storing the giant aircraft on behalf of airlines in April 2020.

G-XLEA leaves Teruel
G-XLEA is the first A380 to leave Teruel since the airport began storing them in April 2020. Photo: Teruel Airport

It’s coming home…

The first A380 to fly out of Teruel, Spain, since the start of the pandemic has taken off. The British Airways Airbus departed the airport at 13:09 local time, heading for Heathrow Airport in London. Flying as BA9177, the flight is expected to take around two hours and 20 minutes.

G-XLEA was the first A380 delivered to British Airways, arriving at the carrier in July 2013. She’s 8.8 years of age, and has been in hibernation at Teruel since flying out on November 20th, 2020. She is expected to touch down in London at 14:15 local time, likely to the delight of A380 spotters who will be reaching for their cameras as we speak.

XLEA was the first A380 in the UK, and began revenue service on September 24th, 2013. Her first long-haul flight was to Los Angeles, with Hong Kong following after in October. At the time of the delivery, the then CEO of British Airways, Keith Williams, commented,

“We are delighted to welcome the first of our A380s to the fleet, joining our new 787s.

“These aircraft are the start of a new era for British Airways. Over the next 15 months, we will take delivery of new aircraft at the rate of one a fortnight as we put ourselves at the forefront of modern aviation.

“The A380 is a fantastic aircraft and an excellent showpiece for British engineering. Our customers are going to love the space, light and comfort on board.”

The A380 has remained a key element of British Airways’ fleet since this first delivery. The airline took delivery of another 11 A380s between 2013 and 2016, registering them consecutively from XLEB up to XLEL.

British Airways A380 leaves Teruel
The A380 is about halfway through its two-hour and 20-minute journey. Photo:

BA’s A380 commitment

British Airways has remained committed to the A380 throughout the pandemic. While other operators, including Air France, Lufthansa, Qatar and Etihad, have either retired the type or parked them indefinitely, British Airways has kept its fleet well maintained and ready for action.

Apart from the three oldest A380s, XLEA, XLEB and XLEC, all the British Airways A380s have been flying relatively recently. All nine have been flying regular rotations to London from their storage locations in France and Spain, to undergo necessary maintenance and ensure they are fit to fly. Just a couple of weeks ago, XLEH returned to Madrid for storage, having spent a couple of weeks in Heathrow.

This year, several A380s have headed over to Doha, Qatar, for warm climate storage. At present, XLED, XLEE and XLEJ are in Doha, a site that is more accommodating in terms of humidity and temperature than Chateauroux in France during the winter. The rest of the rotating nine are currently in Madrid.

British Airways A380 at Teruel
The three A380s at Teruel have not flown since they were parked last year. Photo: Teruel Airport

The three A380s in Teruel, however, have not flown at all in 2021. Like G-XLEA, both XLEB and XLEC were stored in late 2020, and have stayed at Teruel ever since. British Airways has confirmed XLEA is headed in for maintenance, and before the end of the year, we could see a second. Teruel has said that a second A380 is preparing to leave, so Heathrow could be welcoming home XLEB or XLEC before the year is out.

Is this a recovery beginning?

While air travel has begun to pick up, at least in the short and medium-haul markets, international travel remains tricky. However, this hasn’t stopped British Airways from scheduling the A380 into rotations from next March onwards. While there are still some hurdles to overcome, the airline is clearly keen to get its high-capacity quadjet back into service once demand allows.

BA Airbus A380
XLEA was British Airways’ first A380, delivered in 2013. Photo: British Airways

And it’s not just British Airways looking to bring the A380 back. Singapore Airlines has reactivated three, bringing them out of storage in Alice Springs, Australia, and home to Changi Airport. Qantas is making preparations to bring five of its A380s back home by mid-2022, with flights on the schedule from July onwards.

But it’s not all positive news. Etihad has sent a number of its A380s to Teruel for deep storage, claiming the plane has two engines too many. And Lufthansa is expected to fly the last A380 out of Germany next week, closing the door on the superjumbo at the airline for good.