As a number of the world’s airlines cut their service capacity, many of their fleets have been grounded. This novel situation has necessitated immediate solutions where space is limited. With so many aircraft temporarily out of action, where will they be stored and what will happen to the empty A380s?
What’s the issue?
The airline industry is still battling the ill effects of reduced travel demand due to coronavirus. Not only has that caused logistical problems for rescheduling flights and cutting services, but it also presents the issue of airlines having large numbers of aircraft out of operation. Airlines like Lufthansa have been forced to ground a significant portion of their fleet.
Large aircraft like the A380 have been some of the first aircraft to be grounded due to schedule deficiencies. The aircraft are large and there’s simply not the demand for the seats at the present moment. It makes sense for airlines to drop these aircraft in the interest of saving money. However, whether it’s widebodies or narrowbodies, airlines still have the issue of where to store these planes.
The issue is that the aircraft groundings are only temporary. It’s not as simple as shipping these planes off to be scrapped. Airlines will want to use them again. The obvious answer is to keep the aircraft at their home airport. However, as Lufthansa recently found out, airport storage space is limited.
Where are airlines storing their A380 aircraft?
That said, some of the world’s largest airlines have found a way around this unique conundrum and that includes the storage of the widebody giant A380.
One airline that has already stored some of its A380 fleet is Lufthansa. It’s got four A380 aircraft parked in Terminal 3 at Frankfurt Airport, but the airport is running out of space and it’s not only A380s that need a home.
For this reason, Lufthansa is also using Berlin Brandenburg International Airport (BER) to store seven Airbus A320 and 12 A321s. The airport is currently under construction which makes it an excellent storage facility in the short term. In addition, Lufthansa is pulling on its other hubs, like Hamburg for example, to store grounded aircraft.
US airlines are storing their widebodies
However, the A380 is not the only widebody heading into storage. In the US, American Airlines has found storage for nine grounded widebody aircraft that it owns. The airline will be sending these aircraft to one of two locations: Pennsylvania or Oklahoma.
According to The Points Guy (TPG), the airline will be storing three Airbus A330 aircraft at Pittsburgh International Airport. In addition, it will send four of its Boeing aircraft to Tusla International Airport. Here two Boeing 777 and two Boeing 787 will be stored.
Delta Air Lines has also managed to find storage for some of its widebodies. It plans to park over 600 aircraft including some which are already accounted for. Its A350s stored in Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama and Pinal Airpark in Arizona will be joined by some Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s. Its strategy of putting planes in the desert in Arizona is a sensible one that could gain more traction.
Parking in the desert
When aircraft are grounded for periods of time longer than one year, they tend to end up in the desert. That’s because the conditions in this dry heat prevent rapid degradation. Parking grounded aircraft in the desert will unlikely be the first choice for many airlines. That’s because if air carriers wanted to use their aircraft again and quickly then parking in an accessible location is important.
However, when that first choice is no longer available, the desert is a suitable alternative. Since there’s no timeline for how long these groundings will last, parking in arid desert conditions will mean that airlines will save on maintenance costs in the long run.
More aircraft will be grounded
Not all of the world’s airlines have shared information about where their aircraft will be parked. Qantas confirmed that it would be grounding the majority of its A380 fleet as would Korean Airlines. However, it’s unclear where Qantas’ eight and Korean Airlines’ 10 A380 aircraft will go.
In addition, Emirates has some 115 A380 aircraft, although only 20 of them have been grounded so far. When the time comes, where will these aircraft go?
What’s for certain is that the logistical capacity for storing aircraft has not yet been exceeded. The development of the coronavirus will necessitate that airlines and airports get even more inventive with their thinking, but there are still options. Could we see more airports act like Copenhagen and use spare runways as parking lots? We’ll have to wait and see what airlines decide.
Where do you think airlines will store their aircraft? Let us know in the comments.