Lufthansa Sells 6 Airbus A380 Aircraft Back To Airbus Due To Unprofitability

Lufthansa have announced they will sell of six of their Airbus A380s in 2022/2023 for ‘economic reasons’. Airbus are said to be buying them back, which raises questions over what the plans are for these giant jumbo jets.

Lufthansa Airbus A380. Photo: Lufthansa

 

As part of the Lufthansa announcement of their $12bn order of new Boeing and Airbus planes, the group have also revealed they will be reducing their fleet of A380 aircraft over the coming years.

Lufthansa currently operate a fleet of 14 A380s, which will reduce to just eight once the sale of these aircraft goes through. The sale is slated to happen in the 2022/23 financial year, with Airbus said to be buying them back.

In a statement on their website, Lufthansa said:

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“Lufthansa continuously monitors the profitability of its world-wide route network. As a consequence, the group is reducing the size of its Airbus A380 fleet from 14 aircraft to eight for economic reasons. The structure of the network and the long-haul fleet, fundamentally optimized according to strategic aspects, will give the company more flexibility and at the same time increase its efficiency and competitiveness.”

The production of the A380 will be scrapped by Airbus from 2021 following various order cancellations and a lack of demand for the jet. Newer, more efficient aircraft which are easier to fill are more appealing, leaving no buyers for the A380.

Why don’t Lufthansa want the A380?

Numerous carriers have confirmed they will be phasing out the A380 in favor of twin engined models such as the A350. The largest customer of the A380, Dubai based Emirates, recently switched their outstanding order to the smaller A350. Last month Qantas cancelled their order with Airbus too.

Lufthansa A380 and 747
Quad-jets like the A380 and 747 are gradually being phased out in favor of more efficient twin jets. Photo: Lufthansa

Simple Flying spoke to Lufthansa about the sale of the A380. Their spokesperson said that they were ‘big fans’ of the A380, and that both crews and customers loved the aircraft.

However, they also said that, as part of their ongoing business plan, it is important to evaluate profitability in their network. This includes efficient sizing of aircraft in line with market conditions. With the A380, they said, ‘profitability is only possible on the most high-demand routes’.

Lufthansa A380
With the A380, ‘profitability is only possible on the most high-demand routes’. Photo: Lufthansa

As we know, the A380 can be a tricky aircraft to fill to capacity. When full, it’s still one of the most efficient planes out there but getting enough bottoms on seats to make this happen is increasingly tough.

The move to smaller, highly efficient aircraft such as the A350 and the 787 will lower operating costs by an estimated 20%. However, Carsten Spohr also said this was not the only reason for their forthcoming fleet shake-up:

“In addition to the cost-effectiveness of the A350 and B787, the significantly lower CO2 emissions of this new generation of long-haul aircraft was also a decisive factor in our investment decision,” – Carsten Spohr, CEO, Lufthansa

Why do Airbus want the A380 back?

While the decision from Lufthansa to sell the A380 is somewhat simple to understand. What’s more perplexing is the decision by Airbus to take them back. One has to wonder what their plans are for this aircraft. Do they have a buyer lined up, plan to convert them to freighters or are they simply taking them back as part of the A350 deal?

Hi Fly A380
Hi Fly have said they want more second hand A380s for wet lease. Photo: Hi Fly

We know that both Hi Fly and British Airways are in the market for second hand A380s, so perhaps this is part of the Airbus buyback plan?

Lufthansa were unwilling to comment on any links between the A380 sale to Airbus and their order for the A350. Simple Flying have reached out to Airbus for comment and have received the following statement in reply:

“Airbus supports and promotes the A380 second-hand market. We do not comment on discussions we might or might not have with our customers”

So, it’s about as clear as mud. What do you think? Where will these A380s end up?

5 comments
  1. Fleet renewal for the Lufthansa group, likely split among the different airlines.

    1. Lufthansa was mentioning months ago the replacement of 20 A340 with whether the A350 or the B787.
    To me, it is likely that the A350 will replace the A340-300. There are still 5 A340-300 at Swiss (15 y.o.) and 15 in the fleet of Lufthansa (19.5 y.o.)
    2. The B777-9 already ordered (20) should replace the B747-400 and the 6 A380 sold to Airbus.
    3. There are 20 B787 remaining. To me, the most urgent replacement seems to be the Austrian fleet, 6 B767 (23 y.o.) and 6 B777-200 (18.3 y.o.).
    4. The last B787 could replace old A330, A340-600 or open new routes…

    1. My earlier reply was to what l think. This is my reply to where will they end up. Well for sure some unfortunate units will be cannibalized for parts replacement as production stopped. Most owned by airlines will continue to do their jobs and some will be leased or sold as second hands. I predicted some smart kid will come out with an Apps similar to Uber or Grab that will transform the entire story of A380! I am confident to see A380s in the sky for as long as l live!

  2. I maintain my firm stand and support for A380! To stop production is one thing but great care and thoughts must go to preserve all the manufacturing blueprints! Like I’d said before if there is a resurgence in the future to restart production of new A380, everything will still be in place and ready! There will always be a newer plan to getting enough bottoms on seats, this I’m confident! You will never know!
    I will remain unflinching as the strongest A380 supporter!

  3. Supporting Bruce Soh’s argument for the A380:
    – There are very few airports being built or being expand right now, and some of the already exist airports are slot-restricted such as LHR or LAX. Number of residences will rise and the authorities cannot simply take their land to expand the airport.
    – As mentioned, the rising number of residence will undoubtedly lead to the rise of passenger volume over the years. Let’s say even if airlines go for “point to point” strategy, the demands in hubs are still rising anyway.

    Bruce, I saw that you made a comment on the previous post about the comeback of the A380 in the future. I strongly agree! 😉

    As mentioned, the passenger volume will rise, and airlines will definitely need VLA, which has capability of 800+ seating like the A380. By developing an “A380neo”, it will cost way less than develop an entire new plane. With that being said, Airbus can use the ex LH A380s for future study, for example, slightly stretched airframe and wings?

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