British Airways’ Oldest A380 Operates Its Longest Post-COVID Flight

British Airways’ oldest Airbus A380 is operating its first long-haul flight since the start of the pandemic, albeit without passengers. While British Airways and Lufthansa are traditional rivals, the German airline’s maintenance division handles BA’s heavy A380 maintenance at its base in Manila, the Philippines.

British Airways, Airbus A380, Manila
British Airways is flying its oldest Airbus A380 to Manila for heavy maintenance. Photo: Airbus

British Airways is dead set on bringing the Airbus A380 back to service once the worst of the pandemic has passed, making it the only European airline to do so. In a sign that the airline will retain its entire fleet, it is sending its oldest A380 for heavy maintenance.

Off to Asia

Today saw an early rise for G-XLEA and its pilots. At 07:20 London time, the giant aircraft rocketed into the skies according to data from radarbox.com. The aircraft’s destination? Manila. Save for fuel and pilots, the plane departed London Heathrow empty. It is being ferried to the Philippines to undergo heavy maintenance.

While British Airways used to perform heavy maintenance on its Boeing 747 in-house at its Cardiff Airport site, the airline relies on Lufthansa’s maintenance division to take care of its 12 Airbus A380s when it comes to heavy maintenance. The last aircraft to undergo heavy maintenance at the site was G-XLEH, which flew out to Manila in May 2021.

A promising sign for G-XLEA

G-XLEA is the oldest of 12 British Airways Airbus A380 aircraft. The aircraft was actually sent to deep storage in Teruel, Spain, towards the end of 2020. As such, anybody would assume that this would be the first A380 to be scrapped if BA wished to reduce its fleet.

British Airways, Airbus A380, Manila
At 8.88 years old, XLEA was the obvious candidate for retirement if BA were to scrap any A380. Photo: Airbus

According to data from ch-aviation.com, the jet is 8.88 years old, having first flown on November 9th, 2012. Since it joined the BA fleet in 2013, the airline has clocked 28,107 flight hours on 3,128 different flights as of May 31st.

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The fact that the aircraft has been taken out of long-term storage alone shows its commitment to the plane, given how expensive it is to reactivate a plane. The major maintenance check in Manila will be even more pricy and not something the flag carrier would spend money on if the aircraft was not set to return to service.

When will the A380 return to service?

So when exactly will the Airbus A380 return to service? It is hard to say with any degree of certainty, given how fluid the travel situation is. According to the airline’s flight schedule, it will return in late March when the Summer 2022 timetable begins. Of course, now that the world is opening up again, colossal travel demand could see an economic case for them returning to service earlier. Of course, it is also possible that it could be pushed back from March too.

British Airways, Airbus A380, Manila
It’s unknown exactly when the A380s will return to passenger service. Photo: British Airways

We do know that once they’re back, British Airways intends to fly the giant of the skies for the foreseeable future. In early August, the airline signed a multi-year maintenance contract with Lufthansa Technik. Starting next August, the contract will run until at least 2027 and include 12-year checks for all 12 British Airways Airbus A380 planes.

Are you excited to see G-XLEA flying to Manila for heavy maintenance? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!

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