Why Hi Fly’s Airbus A380 Can’t Fly To Lisbon Airport

**Update: 12/04/20 @19:25 UTC – Hi Fly has now responded with a comment regarding the future of the A380 in Lisbon’s airport. **

Hi Fly has failed to obtain the authorization that it needs to fly emergency supplies into Lisbon Portela Airport. The wet lease specialist airline was planning to use its A380 to ship emergency supplies at some point in the near future. However, the lack of infrastructure at the airport means the request has been denied.

A380 Hi Fly
ANA has prevented Hi Fly from using an A380 to deliver emergency supplies in Lisbon. Photo: Getty Images

Hi Fly denied use of A380 at Lisbon Airport

Earlier this week, it was reported that Hi Fly was denied the crucial authorization it needs to be able to fly emergency supplies into Lisbon. The wet lease airline was planning to make a delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) as aid to support coronavirus alleviation efforts. However, this permission was denied by ANA Aeroportos de Portugal over the suitability of the aircraft at Lisbon Portela.

Earlier in the year, Simple Flying spoke to the CEO and Chairman of Hi Fly, Dr. Paulo Mirpuri, regarding the airline’s usage of the A380. Many have eschewed Hi Fly’s decision to incorporate the A380 into its wet lease offering because of the lack of demand for the type. However, when we spoke to Dr. Mirpuri, he told us that the opposite was actually true.

The airline receives 30 requests per day to lease its A380. It welcomes this business and would happily add more of the type to its fleet; however there is one issue standing in its way. Airport infrastructure means that the use of Airbus A380 is not permitted in all airports. It’s the reason why Hi Fly finds itself turning down numerous requests and seeking support from airlines to accommodate the aircraft.

A380 9H-MIP flying
The wingspan and body of the A380 are too large for many airports. Photo: Ibex73 via Wikimedia Commons

Hi Fly is literally crying out for more airports that will accept the A380. It wants to expand its fleet but crucially, airport permissions will determine how successful it will be. So, what’s the problem?

Why do so few airports support the A380?

The issue with flying the A380 is that some airports do not support it due to the Code F aircraft status. It’s a large aircraft, simply too large for many airports. That results in more infrastructure alterations in terms of safety and space being made at existing airports.

Hi Fly A380 stop sign
Airports would need to make big changes in order to support the A380. Photo: Ibex73 via Wikimedia Commons

Airbus says that the A380 is “very easy aircraft to accommodate within airport infrastructure.” It’s compatible in 140 airports worldwide and that figure increases to 400 when adding those airports that accommodate the aircraft on emergency diversion. Whilst that may sound impressive, there are more than 10,000 airports in the world and so the A380 is capable of servicing just a fraction of them.

One of the airports that the A380 is not authorized to fly into is Lisbon. In fact, there is only one airport in Portugal that accommodates the A380; Beja Airport. This is something that Dr. Mirpuri hopes will change. In his interview with Simple Flying, he commented,

“Unfortunately, we have to reject the majority of the requests, and we have to send alternative aircraft even if the client wants initially the Airbus 380 and that is because the airport or the city selected is not compatible with the A380 operations…[The A380 production termination] changed the investment appetite by several airports to change the infrastructures to receive the aircraft… Even here in Lisbon, our base, we have not been able to land the aircraft…”

However, on essential A380 trips like Hi Fly’s latest humanitarian venture, isn’t it about time that something was done to accommodate the world’s A380s better?

Airbus A380
Should more be done to accommodate the A380? Photo: Steve Lynes via Wikimedia Commons

Should airports do more to facilitate the A380?

Hi Fly says that it is “observ[ing] the appetite of the airports to invest” in the A380. However, the current situation for delivering PPE and medical supplies surely warrants extenuating circumstances. 

Hi Fly is now urging ANA Aeroportos de Portugal to revisit its decision in light of the current climate. The Director of Fleets at Hi Fly, Ricardo Bahia, says that whilst he understands how the A380 could disrupt normal operations at Lisbon Portela, there are very few flights at the moment. As a result, it would be beneficial to put in place the extra supervision to allow the A380 to safely enter the airport.

However, for this particular mission, Hi Fly has previously used an A340 to fly into Lisbon. Could this option be back on the cards this time? At the moment, Mr. Bahia’s suggestion for A380 authorization does seem plausible.

A380 Airbus Hi Fly
The cost of making way for the A380 outweighs the benefits. Photo: Ibex73 via Wikimedia Commons

A representative from Hi Fly more recently told us:

“Hi Fly has been trying to operate the A380 in Lisbon since 2018. More recently we insisted on permission to deliver medical supplies in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. This is even more important when China, the main supplier, usually limits foreign operators flights to a maximum of 10 in 12 months. This means a more capable airplane makes all the difference, and the A380 has incomparable lifting capabilities…We believe airport authorities and civil aviation authority will grant this permission soon, although so far neither came back to us with a thumbs up. We are ready, we fly, we care. For now, the only airport in Portugal where our A380 lands is Beja Airport.”

That said, the long term advantage of modifying airports to accommodate the A380 does not work in Hi Fly’s favor. Since so few of these aircraft operate these days and airlines are phasing them out, it doesn’t seem to make much economical sense to facilitate Hi Fly’s A380.

We contacted Hi Fly to find out how it would be managing the delivery of its emergency supplies if the A380 did not receive authorization from Lisbon Portela. At the time of publication, it was unavailable for comment. However, we will update this article as and when we receive a reply.

Let us know your thoughts. Should airports do more to accommodate the A380? Should Hi Fly create a workaround for its emergency delivery?