British Airways has always been a big fan of the A380, giving it the opportunity to provide more seats on popular routes out of the congested London Heathrow airport. However, none have performed any revenue flights since March, and even now, most of the fleet remains stored in France. Let’s take a look at what’s happening with the A380 right now.
The future of the A380
With many airlines retiring quadjets in favor of the more nimble, fuel-efficient twinjets, the future of giant aircraft like the A380 has been consistently called into question. Boeing’s own quad, the 747, has seen widespread retirements, and many airlines have stored their A380s too. Some are doubtful it will ever return to service.
British Airways has 12 A380s in its fleet. None have flown revenue flights since March, with many stored at the French airport Chateauroux. At one point, there were no BA A380s in London at all, and the future of the fleet was hanging in the balance.
However, for an airline like BA, operating out of a normally congested, slot controlled airport like London Heathrow, having a very high capacity aircraft can make sense on some routes. Throughout the crisis, the airline has remained optimistic about the A380s return to revenue service, recently telling North Wales Live,
“The A380 is still a valued part of our fleet and there are currently no plans to retire them.”
So where are the giant aircraft right now, and when can we hope to get on one again?
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Where are they now?
The 12 A380s in the BA fleet are registered G-XLE and then A through to L. That makes it pretty easy to find out where they are right now.
XLEA, the first to arrive at BA in July 2013, was parked in Chateauroux in March. It hopped back to London, presumably for maintenance, in July, and then went back to the French storage location a couple of days later. However, G-XLEA has, just a couple of weeks ago, returned to London Heathrow again.
When it landed, it became the third A380 to be back in London since lockdown. At the time, XLEG and XLEI were also at Heathrow. XLEI had been to Manila for heavy maintenance and had returned briefly to LHR. However, on October 28th, it was flown back to Chateauroux for storage.
Another London returnee is XLEC, which flew in just this weekend on October 30th. It was spotted at Terminal 5, awaiting transfer to the maintenance base for its latest check-up. This means that, in London, we currently have three British Airways A380s once again.
— PJSAero (@Peter_Smithson) November 1, 2020
XLEB, XLED, XLEE, XLEF, XLEH, XLEJ, XLEK, and XLEL are all currently at Chateauroux in storage, along with XLEI, which arrived back there last week. Every single one has, at some point over the summer months, flown back to the airline’s base at London Heathrow, meaning every single one is still current on a three-month flight cycle.
What’s next for the BA A380?
Back in September, we noted that British Airways had tentatively scheduled A380 service from the start of the winter season, October 25th. The schedule filings had suggested as many as six could be brought back into service for the season, four operating transatlantic service, and a pair on routes to South Africa.
Clearly, this didn’t materialize and was likely something the carrier had planned for, as it never did put the First cabin on sale.
The latest information from Routesonline suggests that the A380 services will not be resumed until December 1st at the earliest. We could see some operations restarted in time for the busy Christmas and New Year period, but that will all depend on the relaxation of border restrictions, particularly across the North Atlantic.
Overall, we remain confident that the A380 will return to the British Airways fleet. The question mark remains over when, and is a decision that is largely outside of the airline’s control.