To date, there has only been one second-hand operator of an Airbus A380. However, this lasted just three years, with the aircraft being retired around a year ago. On paper, a huge wet lease aircraft may seem like a great idea, but sadly it didn’t turn out that way for many reasons.
While December is set to mark the comeback of many Airbus A380s, one that won’t be returning to the skies is 9H-MIP, Hi Fly’s attempt at a wet lease giant. The airline retired the jet last year, having also tried to remarket the aircraft as a freighter.
Great in small doses
The main problem with the Hi Fly Airbus A380 was its size, which was also a problem for many other A380s. This was also what made the aircraft so perfect for its handful of missions. For example, following the collapse of Thomas Cook, the aircraft was drafted in as part of Operation Matterhorn to repatriate hundreds of stranded passengers.
Of course, a significant holiday airline doesn’t collapse every day, and for most of the year, such high demand wasn’t there for the giant aircraft, especially during quieter parts of the year like winter. Hi Fly also operates smaller aircraft which would be preferred for fewer passengers. Demand for the aircraft was almost exclusive to the peak summer months. The aircraft saw lots of use in August and September 2018 and from April to October 2019.
Then, something terrible happened to the aviation industry. Flight schedules practically collapsed overnight. Towards the start of the crisis, the jet was used for a couple of repatriation flights, including from China to France. However, with airlines unable to fill a Boeing 737, and a surge in unused aircraft, there was certainly no need for the plane.
Hi Fly did attempt to repurpose the aircraft as a preighter. However, this didn’t really lead to any more usage of the aircraft. As a result of its challenges in filling the jet, the airline decided to return the aircraft to its owner around a year ago.
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According to ch-aviation.com, the aircraft is currently in storage in Tarbes, France. Having first flown on November 17th, 2006, the aircraft is now 14.92 years old. To date, the jet has completed 45,281 flight hours across 5,630 flight cycles. ch-aviation reports that during the whole of 2020, the plane clocked just 228 hours of flight across 38 flights.
One could argue that there would be a place for a wet lease A380 in a post-pandemic world. However, it wouldn’t be the type of use that Hi Fly envisioned for the jet. Rather than regular wet lease contracts, it would likely be used more like the An-225, the world’s largest aircraft. This plane spends most of its time cozy on the ground, only flying now and again as and when its capacity is really needed.
Do you think Hi Fly made the right decision to ditch the A380? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!