Grounding Airbus A380s Has Made Some Airlines Cut First Class

The drop in travel demand saw the grounding of the world’s largest plane before any other. Although we’ve seen aircraft of all shapes and sizes put into hibernation over the last couple of months, the Airbus A380 was first to go, and will likely be the last to come back too.

Air France Airbus A380, KLM Boeing 747, Grounded
With fewer A380 in the skies, there is reduced first class available. Photo: Getty Images

The loss of the A380 has seen the loss of something else. As the world’s largest passenger plane, the A380 was the one that most frequently offered first class. Its size meant airlines could really get creative with their ultra-premium cabins, including showers, lounges and bars into the mix.

But with fewer A380s flying today and many not likely to return any time soon, the world is short on first class seats. Here are some of the most notable disappearances.

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Etihad’s Residence won’t be back this year

Widely regarded as one of the best first class products in the world, the grounding of the A380 has seen Etihad’s ‘The Residence’ pulled from its booking platform. While the airline still has some first class seats onboard its 777s and 787s, not all of them have this option, and none have anything as opulent as The Residence.

The A380 will not return to the skies for Etihad until at least 2021. In fact, it was reported in May that the airline was contemplating never bringing back the type at all. However, it has been added to some schedules from January 2021, giving us hope that the opportunity to fly The Residence has not been lost yet.

Qantas’ lack of A380 spells the end of first class

Qantas has recently refurbished around half of its A380 fleet, complete with brand new first class product. However, the pandemic has seen the airline grounding its fleet, and last week it was revealed that it would send all 12 to the Mojave desert for storage until at least 2023.

The freshened up first class seat on the refurbished Qantas A380. Photo: Qantas.

As Qantas doesn’t have first on any of its other aircraft, this represents a loss of that entire fare class to the airline. While some may not come back at all, the six that feature the redesigned cabin represent a significant investment for the airline, and will likely make a reappearance once travel demand ticks up again.

Lufthansa has less first class

Since the start of the pandemic, Lufthansa has ferried its A380 aircraft, one by one, out to Spain for storage. Half of these aircraft will never return to the fleet, as Lufthansa has transferred seven to what it calls ‘deep storage’. The other seven are at Frankfurt and are being prepared for storage.

Lufthansa First Class
Lufthansa’s first class cabin on the Airbus A380. Photo: Lufthansa

While Lufthansa hasn’t specified how long these aircraft will be mothballed, it seems like we shouldn’t expect them back any time soon. While Lufthansa does have first class on some of its A330s and A340s, as well as its 747-8s, the loss of the A380 has significantly reduced the availability of first class, and will likely affect the number of premium seats for some time going forward.

Qatar completely removes first

Despite being a relatively premium airline, Qatar only offered first on its A380 aircraft. Its entire fleet was grounded in late March this year, and its return is looking very uncertain. The Airbus A380 has been removed from Qatar’s schedules for at least a year, and the airline has said that it may never return at all.

Grounding Airbus A380s Has Made Some Airlines Cut First Class
Qatar Airways has an open suite First Class on its A380s. Photo: Qatar Airways

There is some hope for first on Qatar Airways, however. Last week, the airline’s CEO Akbar Al Baker said that it was considering a new ultra-premium first class cabin for its forthcoming Boeing 777-9 aircraft. These should begin delivering next year.

All is not lost

Although there is undoubtedly a marked reduction in first class seats worldwide, there are still some opportunities to fly premium if that’s what floats your boat. Most of the Asian carriers continue to offer first on long-haul flights, including ANA, Cathay Pacific, JAL, and THAI. Emirates, naturally, is bringing back its A380s shortly, with first, although the showers and bars will be out of action.

First Class
Emirates A380s will be back with First next month. Photo: Emirates

Over in the west, American Airlines’ Flagship First is still available on its Boeing 777s. Air France, British Airways, and SWISS still have a first product in the skies too. However, even if you do get a first class seat, flying right now is very different with reduced service and amenities – it’s certainly not the premium experience it should be.

Would you like to fly first right now? Do you think these airlines will bring their A380s back? Let us know in the comments.