Dominican Republic Receives Its First Airbus A380 Ever

It’s been a special week for the Dominican Republic after it welcomed its first-ever Airbus A380 yesterday. The superjumbo made its arrival to the country on 16th May operated by wet-lease airline Hi Fly. It was tasked with bringing vital PPE from China, but the arrival of such a large aircraft in Las Américas International Airport (SDQ) made it into the history books for more than its generosity.

HiFly A380, 9H-MIP
A HiFly A380 has touched down in the Dominican Republic for the first time. Photo: Getty Images

A first for the Dominican Republic

The Airbus A380 has been around for some time, taking passengers across the globe ever since it was first flown in 2007. However, this week marked the first time that an A380 has ever touched down in the Dominican Republic.

On 16th May, Hi Fly operated flight HFM803 from Tianjin, China, to Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. The direct trip covered some 14,527 kilometers with the Airbus A380. The aircraft, registered 9H-MIP, was laden with 45,000kg of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the country in response to the coronavirus. It had collected the items from China on 14th May. 9H-MIP left Beja International Airport in Portugal at 18:48 UTC on 14th May and arrived in Tianjin at 05:54 UTC the following day.

Classified by Airbus as a code F aircraft, the A380 is not compatible with all airports. However, in the Dominican Republic, both Las Américas International Airport (SDQ) and the larger Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) can facilitate the A380. So, why has it not flown there before?

hi Fly A380, coral reef livery
Why was Hi Fly the first A380 in the DR? Photo: Hi Fly

Why has the A380 avoided the Dominican Republic?

On the Las Américas website, the airport boasts proudly of its ability to welcome the A380. It says:

“[SDQ] has one runway and is the largest one in all Dominican Republic and also is one of the largest ones in the Caribbean. This runway is able to support an Airbus A380.”

Until a few years ago, SDQ was the only airport in the Dominican Republic that could support the A380. Since 2015, Punta Cana Airport has been able to do the same, and Airbus even lists PUJ as the primary airport for the aircraft.

Therefore, it’s not because the Dominican Republic does not have the capacity for the A380. Instead, it could be more about the demand for such an aircraft in the region.

The two main airports in the Dominican Republic can facilitate the A380. Photo: Great Circle Mapper

Airlines may not want to fly the A380 to the Dominican Republic

According to data from the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, the country welcomed 1.2m international travelers between January 2019 and February 2019. This year, understandably, it’s less. However, the general trend shows that more and more people are visiting the Dominican Republic year-on-year.

Over 67% of all international traffic enters the DR through Punta Cana Airport; however, the majority of passengers that holiday in the country are also from the United States. Between January and February 2020, 58% of foreign nationals to the DR were American. That’s significant because no US airline operates the A380. It doesn’t make sense for travel across the US, and also, the aircraft is expensive to maintain.

BA 777
British Airways uses a 777 for its flight between London and Santo Domingo. Photo: Getty Images

This is most certainly why the country does not see the superjumbo jet more frequently. In addition, some airlines that operate in the Dominican Republic do not have A380s. For example, British Airways offers a direct flight from London Gatwick to Punta Cana as flight BA2205, and the route is operated by a Boeing 777.

Of the airlines that do still operate the A380, the aircraft might not be the most obvious choice for flights to the Dominican Republic because of cost, passenger seat capacity, and size. What’s more, some of those airlines operate to the country via codeshares with other airlines.

Therefore, as spectacular as an A380 arrival in the Dominican Republic is, it may not happen again for some time.

Would you want to see the A380 more in the Dominican Republic? Have your say in the comments.