British Airways May Buy Second Hand A380’s To Replace Their 747’s

With the Airbus A380 set to retire in 2021, many have been saddened by the upcoming end of both the 747 and the A380 in passenger use around the world.

But in an ironic twist of fate, it seems British Airways plans on snapping up as many A380s as possible to fuel their 747 replacement.

BOAC 747
Two British Airways 747 aircraft, one with special BOAC retro livery. The aircraft will stay in its retro livery until it is retired in 2023. Photo: Tom Boon/Simple Flying

What are the details?

Whilst the last A380 will roll off the production line in 2021, the very first A380s are starting to be retired right now. Singapore recently retired four back to their leaseholder, one of which ended up as the new Hi Fly A380, two for spare parts (their engines are worth a fortune) and the last one vanished.

This means there is coming oversupply of second-hand A380 aircraft entering the market (Six Air France A380s are expected to be retired late this year).

News that could be a real boon for British Airways, who are in the midst of retiring their 747 fleet. By replacing their 747 aircraft with A380 aircraft until their newer jets come online in 2022 (18 Airbus A350-1000s, and 12 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners) British Airways can ensure a smooth transition. And you can bet that these A380 aircraft will be way cheaper than renting/wet-leasing or extending the lifespan of the 747s.

British Airways
A British Airways A380 takes off.

Why the A380?

But why would British Airways want the A380 over say, a Boeing 777-300ER? What unique challenges does British Airways have that an A380 would useful?

The first is British Airways’ hub airport, London Heathrow. Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, and as such, has no free slots for aircraft to land. The only way for an airline to increase capacity or maintain their capacity is a bigger aircraft like the A380. By using an A380 over a smaller aircraft, British Airways has more tickets to sell and their cost per seat would not go down.

Additionally, British Airways already has 12 A380s in the fleet in service and has plenty of experience in utilizing the aircraft. They would not have to train new pilots, acquire new logistics or even find a new food supplier. Their current A380 infrastructure network could be expanded as each A380 is delivered.

ritish Airways A380 Business class
British Airways A380 Business class

Plus, if British Airways starts to fight more competitively on routes against their rival Virgin Atlantic, the A380 might be their secret weapon. They might even acquire the extra capacity to simply deprive Virgin of the chance, who originally had the plane on order years ago.

Lastly, if British Airways were to acquire some of the more premium versions of the A380, say for example the ones with the shower on board, that could be a killer advantage over any competition.

What do you think of this plan? Let us know in the comments. 

 

35 comments
    1. I agree, completely, although he may be right in substance.

      BA may be one of the few airlines in the world for which a constricted home port makes worthwhile the A380’s extra passenger capacity.

      Better?

    1. You have until the late 2040s to fly the A380, unless you mean that you will die soon.
      BA and Emirates will keep their current A380s for at least 20 years.

  1. Why would BA want to buy used ‘premium’ A380 with showers? They would have no commonality with current BA products and we haven’t even touched on the engines. BA/IAG would look at Rolls Royce engines as a deal maker/beaker.

  2. Bad move since EU after the Brexit will not allow the UK the same air space accessibility therefore less people will maker it a transfer point. Also companies are moving away from London to places like Frankfurt so less demand for business and first class seats.

  3. If BA does buy second hand A380’s, it will likely seek to acquire aircraft with Rolls Royce, rather than Engine Alliance, engines, as its current A380’s have. That would rule out the ex-Air France A380’s, and some of the Emirates A380’s, but would rule in the Singapore Airlines planes. Buying second hand planes from airlines that have a strong reputation for maintenance is rarely a bad idea.

      1. It is such a derogatory statement for you to call the Airbus A380 flying pigs !!! It shows that you have no knowledge of planes at all. The Airbus A380 is the most technologically advance plane flying and it is the only double decker plane in the world compared to the Boeing B747 which once ruled the world as the Queen of the skies. Think you should get a life instead of passing such stupid statement for one who has no appreciation of technology and product excellence.

  4. How does this make sense? The 747s are paid off in full – their costs comprise of operating and maintenance – higher perhaps than is preferred. If BA were to go for used A380s, they would have some sort of a rent/ownership payment plus operation and maintenance, only to retire them in 5 years?

    1. If BA is thinking about it, it is because it makes sense…
      Otherwise, why would an airline ever buy new airplanes?

      The market for used A380 is very favorable for the clients. The ownership cost of the A380 is cheaper though for airlines already owning it.

      The expected lifetime of a fleet is around 25 years.
      The B747-400 still in service at BA have an average age of 22 years old. The longer an aircraft is into service, the more the maintenance cost increases, and the lower the reliability is.

      For a European carrier, this age is very old!
      Considering the fact that Heathrow doesn’t have free slots for take off and landings, and that the traffic will continue to increase, BA is the typical airline for which the A380 was designed.
      It is designed for airports where the capacity in terms of rotations is full, but where larger airliners and allow the increase of the passenger counts.
      So really no surprise in that move. BA has been mentioning their interest for the A380 for a while, but at the right price. And second hand market allows that !

  5. Ironic. The very reason the 380 was built was to service slot-constrained airports. For BA it sounds like new ones were just too expensive. I wonder why they are willing to pay the fuel costs vs 777X ?

  6. Some items to consider:
    1)LHR slots can be bought and sold, so unless regulators don’t allow the transaction BA can increase flights that way
    2) if you grow a fleet you need to train more
    pilots to operate the increased schedule, unless you plan on not growing that fleet’s schedule
    But thats an expensive resource to be sitting idle
    3)expanding infrastructure costs money
    4) unlike (until recently) the 3 big Mid East carriers,
    BA has to make money so it’s unlikely revenue generating space will be wasted on showers, not to mention the added weight for all that water which cuts into your payload

  7. The new Airbus CEO will have more imagination than Tom Enders, and hopefully he can navigate through Brexit (Brexit will never happen, don’t worry), and hopefully he can find some way to convince China/India/Emirates to commit to buy 500+ A380neo’s and then he can re-start the A380 programme within like a year or two. They can increase by +10% seat count capacity and improve by +20% fuel efficiency and reduce the A380 price by -50%. Also, he must convince Ryanair/Easyjet to build a worldwide low cost long haul empire with bases from their busiest european low cost hubs like Luton, Charlerois, Beauvais and Malpensa.

  8. What a clown -writes such none-sense?
    Must not have ever worked in a cost-per available mile environment.
    There are 3 – three A380 parked at Lourdes since October last year.
    Two (2) are cannibalized for spares by Dr Peters Group.
    If there were any interest – the 3 parked aircraft would be – I assure you-
    run-up every week – moved around and kept in “demonstration-ready” shape.
    They are sitting among dozen other A330-200-300 here at Lourdes.
    It take literally millions of $$ for using a different engine type- type certificating same under Sanders 25- and that is not about to happen.
    All this in an environment where gas under 1 year contracts is reasonably cheap.
    Lots more A380 might be parked- should gas price go up- the aircraft is just a 5,000
    ‘plus gas user at MTOW – ISA -zero wind at altitude FL330- thats a fact .
    The next one close to that is the Air Force Galaxy.
    What if… ? means nothing . Competition, fuel efficiency and price win over any aircraft appeal.

    1. I wonder who is the clown here. Your argument over seat mile, certification cost for re-engine, high fuel cost are based on your assumption that the capacity is not filled. The A380 when filled to capacity has a set mile comparable to the B777. Charbax is not a clown when he suggested about using the A380 by LCC like Easyjet and Ryanair to use them at their busy hubs for Long Haul.

  9. Rembering what BA did with their 767s I’d say it’s more likely the 747 retirements will just be delayed. I used to regularly fly on one of BA’s long-haul 767 routes and not only was the re-equipment held over by around 15 months (by which time the 767s were complete wrecks inside!) but the promised Dreamliners never materialised and when the changeover was made we got elderly 777-200s.

    Based on what I’ve heard BA are finding that the A380s may look good on their website and in press releases but trying to operate them at a profit is proving a bit problematic. Apart from simply not generating the required load factors BA, like several other airlines, have discovered that when an A380 goes tech it’s a logistical nightmare.

  10. It is a brilliant idea to acquire such a beauty as the A380 which is appreciated and welcome by loads of flying passengers. It is a plane so quiet and comfortable that no other plane flying today come near to offer the same. Furthermore it should make the plane as the Flagship of the fleet. Brexit or no Brexit, to overcome the flight restrcition at Heathrow, the only way to increase capacity is to use a bigger plane and that is where the Airbus A380 comes into its own and that was what it was designed and built for!!!!

  11. BA is known more for passenger density (e.g. Business class) aboard their aircraft than for premium in-flight experience. So agree with others above the idea of A380 showers is silly. Acquisition of Rolls-engined A380s certainly makes sense, although I’d expect them to densify/cheapen First and Business cabins if acquired from Emirates or Singapore.

    Don’t know actual fuel burn figures, but it seems likely A380 passengers cost per mile are better than 747-400 but (obviously) worse than wide-aisle twins like the 777 or A350. However, the cheap price of used A380s (and limited/expensive landing slots at Heathrow issue) could easily make them the optimal choice for BA. Nice to think/know that (some) used A380s will be able to find a home other than the scrap yard.

  12. Agree with others above that BA will never go for showers or other premium experiences for their First and Business classes. BA is known for passenger density, not premium First experiences (e.g. suites) like Emirates and Singapore. So expect any second-hand Rolls-powered A380s they purchase to get re-worked (e.g. simplified and densified) premium cabins.

    Makes sense for BA to purchase used A380s. Don’t know the fuel burn figures, but they likely yield better seat-mile costs than the 747-400, though obviously worse than 777 and A350. But the cheap price of used A380s should make them attractive.

  13. BA need to upgrade their business class to something decent. Virgin has failed as has most US airlines. Singapore are the benchmark.

  14. Thanks, Mike, for infusing this discussion with some brains. You’re entirely correct. Many will also agree with Alice Kooper for the A380 is indeed an ugly plane that cannot be reitre soon enough.

    About the fuel efficiency, assuming you’re flying long-haul:

    A380: burns approx. 14 kg/Km or translating in fuel/seat of 3.25 L/100 km
    B747-400: approx. 11 kg/km or 3.35 L/100 km
    B747-8: approx. 10.5 kg/km or 2.8 to 3.35 L/100 km

    So, the fact that the A380 is “way cheaper” in terms of efficiency than the 747-400 is crap. Yes, it’s cheaper, but by far not “way cheaper”, and this is just fuel efficiency. You need to add engine maintenance and parts and their availability to the equation when comparing costs. BA will likely have a far larger stock of 747 parts than of 380 parts which also needs to be considered.

    So, indeed, Mike was spot on despite the blind admiration of some for the 380. In the end, not buying secondhand A380s and extending the life of those 747’s for which it is still cost-effective will be the most cost-efficient solution. It may imply a temporary reduction in seat availability, yes, so ? Are all A380s now filled to capacity ? Would BA die or go broke without A380’s ? No, it won’t, it would cope.

  15. I suspect BA could buy Rolls Royce powered A380’s from either Malaysian Airlines (6) or Thai International (6) at a respectable price, have them re-fitted and place them on high capacity/dense routes eg: East coast USA & Canada, West Africa and selective cities in Asia where BA performs well with high load factors. As and when B777x arrives then the newer more fuel efficient aircraft will phase out the older ones.

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