It seemed like the Airbus A380 was doomed following the emergence of the global health crisis. At one point, there were no A380s flying. Moreover, operators such as Air France and Lufthansa retired their units. However, despite the mass groundings, the superjumbo is seeing a positive twist of fate.
Several airlines were already planning to phase out their A380 units in favor of more efficient twinjet options. However, the pandemic catalyzed retirement parties due to long-haul travel being the most affected market segment in aviation.
Nonetheless, with passenger activity picking up again after a horrid year and a half, airlines are beginning to take another look at their options with the A380. Here is a rundown of where the plane stands with each of its operators.
All Nippon Airways
Just yesterday, ANA took on its third and final Airbus A380. The Japanese carrier primarily promotes the type for flights between Tokyo Narita and Honolulu. While restrictions were in place, it used its existing units on special tours around Japan.
All of Asiana Airlines’ six A380s are currently parked. The South Korean carrier previously flew its units on a mix of long-haul and regional routes, including services to Bangkok, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York, Sydney, and Tokyo.
British Airways has been preparing short-haul A380 trips to Frankfurt and Madrid to get crews familiar with the plane again. The flag carrier of the United Kingdom is bringing back four of its 12 units in November.
China Southern Airlines
The only Chinese operator of the A380 presently has four of its five units in the skies. They have been flying from Guangzhou to the likes of Melbourne, Los Angeles, and Amsterdam in recent weeks.
The Dubai-based carrier was continuing to take deliveries of the A380 during the peak months of the pandemic. As the largest operator of the A380, Emirates presently has over 40 of its 120 units active and is set to fly the superjumbo for the next two decades.
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In May, Etihad announced the permanent grounding of its 10 A380s. The Abu Dhabi-based leadership expressed to Simple Flying that the plane has two engines too many. Nonetheless, the airline’s CEO, Tony Douglas, said never say never on the model’s return.
Interestingly, Korean Air is merging with compatriot Asiana Airlines. Therefore, the flag carrier of South Korea will have another six A380s to think about on top of its existing 10 units. The airline has previously stated that it plans to let go of the model within five years.
In May, Malaysia Airlines announced that it was planning to retire its A380 in the coming months. Thus, in July, six of its units went up for sale.
The national carrier of Australia has 12 A380s in its holdings. While all of these are grounded due to Australia’s strict border policy during the pandemic, Qantas previously stated that it plans to reactivate its fleet of superjumbos. This summer, the carrier noted that the A380 will fly for many years to come.
Qatar Airways announced a surprise return for the A380, scheduling it on services before the end of the year. The airline grounded all of its A380 fleet, and management shared that the plane was a thing of the past and its biggest mistake. Yet, the flag carrier of Qatar now highlights that in order to alleviate the current fleet challenges amid the grounding of many of several A350s, which have been primarily caused by composite cracks, the A380 is being brought back.
The Singapore flag carrier has been removing units from storage in recent months. However, a few of its retired ones have been sent for dismantlement recently. Nonetheless, the airline is been bringing back A380s for vaccine lane flights. With Singapore Airlines back in the fold, London Heathrow is now welcoming four A380 airlines, making it the most diverse airport in this field.
All six of Thai Airways’ aircraft won’t enter passenger service again. Two units have been put up for sale while the others on lease are being sent back.
The next chapter
Altogether, there is now notable progress with the A380. During the early months of the pandemic, activity with the plane was minuscule. Presently, passengers are increasingly returning to the air as governments start to open borders and loosen travel restrictions. With this transition, it’s only natural that airlines meet demand with the right aircraft. There will undoubtedly be more A380 flights in 2022.
Even though there is an optimistic pattern emerging and the type having only 14 years of service, the A380 is still on its way out of the industry. Carriers are prioritizing more cost-effective and sustainable options such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.
With stakeholders looking at long-term, efficient solutions, the gas-guzzling quad jet is finding it hard to have a role in this next stage. Other than with Emirates and its plethora of units, it will be hard to spot the A380 by the time this decade is over.
What are your thoughts about the Airbus A380? Are you looking to fly on the plane again? Also, how has your experience been on the aircraft over the years? Let us know what you think of the superjumbo and its prospects in the industry in the comment section.