Sean Doyle, Chief Executive Officer of British Airways, today reaffirmed his plans to return the Airbus A380 to service as the airline gets back on its feet. The plans are a stark contrast to the view taken by other European Airbus A380 operators who are looking towards a future without the giant of the skies.
The Airbus A380 has had a real rollercoaster ride since its inception. Airbus decided to end the program after a decade and just 251 orders. However, the giant of the skies was dealt a second blow by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, not all airlines are looking to ditch the four-engined giant.
The A380 works very well for British Airways
Talking at a CAPA Live webinar, British Airways CEO Sean Doyle revealed that the British flag carrier remains committed to the Airbus A380. Doyle commented,
“[The A380] works very well for British Airways. We do have a base for the A380, it’s in our plans… Even on the East Coast of the US, even into Miami we found the A380 worked very well.”
This isn’t the first time that Doyle has commented about his commitment to the giant. However, clues about the airline’s commitment to the A380 are also shown through their storage activities. Take Lufthansa, for example. The German flag carrier has been sending its fleet to long-term storage. With the view they won’t fly again, this is the most economical option.
In contrast, British Airways has been cycling all of its A380s to London Heathrow for regular maintenance, which of course comes with a significant cost attached. If British Airways weren’t reasonably convinced it would fly the A380 again, these costs wouldn’t make sense.
A specific role handled well
Of course, there is no need for the Airbus A380 today or even tomorrow. However, the Airbus A380 does cater to a particular niche. Large, slot-controlled airports, where new slots are hard to come by. British Airways London Heathrow home is one of these airports. Indeed, in 2016, 10% of all London Heathrow passengers traveled on an Airbus A380.
When Heathrow is operating at maximum capacity, British Airways wants to make the most of every single slot that it owns. The Airbus A380 holds 469 passengers in British Airways’ configuration. This compares to 256 on the Boeing 787-10.
By flying the A380 to busy hub airports, British Airways can offer a similar capacity to two 787-10 flights. By using the A380, the airline unlocks another slot that can be used elsewhere. Once travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, there will undoubtedly be a place for the jet once more.
A view echoed by Emirates
This is the view also held by Dubai-based giant Emirates. In a recent interview with Simple Flying, Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates, told us,
“Heathrow slots are restricted, Hong Kong slots are restricted. Every single major hub is restricted on slots. So, if you want to put a 787 in there on Heathrow slot where you could put a 517 seater A380, it doesn’t take long to get to the max on that.”
When do you think British Airways will bring back the Airbus A380? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!