Portuguese wet leasing specialist Hi Fly is the only wet lease company with an A380 in its fleet. Simple Flying talked to the CEO, Dr. Paulo Mirpuri, about this giant jumbo, to find out if and when the airline plans to add more Airbus A380s to its fleet.
Hi Fly would love more A380s
Considering how much demand there is for Hi Fly’s A380, wouldn’t it make sense for the wet lease specialist to invest in some more? That’s the question Simple Flying put to Hi Fly’s CEO Dr. Paulo Mirpuri in a recent interview.
The Doctor didn’t need to think too hard before answering,
“Hi Fly would love to add additional A380s”
Clearly, that’s great news. With Airbus giving up on production of the A380 and airlines rapidly falling out of love with the giant jumbo, it’s great to see an airline as enthusiastic about the type as many passengers and avgeeks are.
But the question remains, why haven’t they taken any more yet? There are clearly plenty about (Air France retired one just last week), and with Airbus fully committed to supporting a secondhand market, the time seems ideal for Hi Fly to snag another aircraft. But, there’s a problem. Dr. Mirpuri explained,
“The market is there, but we need to be able to land … We cannot add additional A380s if we cannot land with them in a wider number of airports.”
According to figures from Airbus, there are over 140 airports worldwide that have the necessary facilities for the A380 on a regular service. A further 400 or so are equipped to handle the A380 in a ‘diversion’ capacity, meaning it could land there in an emergency but it’s not ideal for regular service.
This means that, despite getting as many as 30 requests a day to lease the A380 from Hi Fly, the company regularly has to turn these jobs down due to a lack of airport infrastructure. Dr. Mirpuri told us,
“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. That is because the airport or the city selected is not compatible with the A380 operations.”
Airbus notes that, although some airports are not set up to take the ‘Code F’ aircraft, that doesn’t mean it can’t land there. Hi Fly themselves have proven over the last 12 months just how flexible this airframe is, landing it for the first time at many locations unaccustomed to handling such a large plane.
Although the plane can land and be serviced at these less than ideally equipped airports, it comes with its downsides too. Dr. Mirpuri told us how, at airports without the right facilities, they often have to board through the lower doors only and load equipment and catering trolleys via the lower deck.
Will more airports invest in A380 facilities?
Right now, the likelihood of more airports investing in the infrastructure to adequately handle the Code F aircraft seems slim. Airbus is ending the production of the type, and those who do fly it already have routes figured out. Dr Mirpuri thinks the same, telling us,
“When we selected the A380 to introduce in our fleet, this was around two and a half years ago. When our first aircraft arrived in 2018, the type was still in production, but shortly after that Airbus decided to stop production of the aircraft. This changed the investment appetite by several airports to add the infrastructure to receive the aircraft.”
No more airports have added facilities for the A380 in recent years, and Hi Fly must find it very frustrating to have to turn down good contracts because the airports are unsuitable. As such, Dr. Mirpuri wants to see further investment in the A380 by airports before taking on more of the type.
“I would say we have to observe the appetite of the airports to invest and the aviation community to continue to invest in this aircraft,” he concluded.
Do you think there’s any mileage in more airports investing in A380 infrastructure? Or are we simply watching the death throes of an outdated aircraft? Let us know in the comments what you think.