The Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker has gone into a little more depth today about the airline’s future plans. On the back of predictions of a long, slow recovery and a 25% shrink of its fleet yesterday, the executive revealed that it might not fly the A380 again.
The airline has 10 of the type, all of which have been grounded already. Al-Baker said Qatar would not return the A380 to service for at least a year, possibly never again.
A380s will return “maybe never”
Yesterday, the CEO of Qatar Airways said that his fleet could shrink by around 25% as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Now, it seems we know from where at least some of that reduction could come.
As reported in today’s Executive Traveler, Akbar al-Baker reaffirmed his stance that the industry would take two to three years to recover from the crisis. He went on to state that the airline has already grounded its fleet of Airbus A380s, and that there was a strong possibility they may never be put back in service.
Speaking at a media briefing, al-Baker is quoted by Executive Traveler as saying,
“Qatar Airways is parking its 10 A380s and they will not return for at least a year, and maybe never.”
The Qatar Airways boss went further in his scathing analysis of the future of travel. According to Airline Ratings, he predicted that business travel was to be severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis, saying that,
“Yields will fall as premium traffic declines.”
As well as this, al-Baker thought the aviation industry would come back from the crisis with fewer players than went into it. He predicted “consolidation and bankruptcies and a huge reduction in capacity,” as well as more airlines seeking government support, including his own.
The A380s days were numbered
The A380 in the Qatar Airways fleet was never a long-term proposition. As a primary user of the type, Qatar had never planned to keep the giant jumbos for longer than their 10th birthday. Indeed, speaking at the Paris Air Show last year, al-Baker outlined plans to retire the first of its fleet in 2024. At the show, he said,
“We feel that the aircraft does not have very long future in Qatar Airways’ fleet, We would think about retiring those aeroplanes on their 10th anniversary, unless something untoward happens and we need them.”
The fleet was never to be refitted with the new Qsuite; a project intended to begin this year. The decision was partly down to the pronounced curve of the A380s upper deck walls, although the airline had mooted a redesigned product with Qsuite-like comfort.
However, following the Paris Air Show announcement of the planned exit of the type, it was confirmed to Executive Traveler that the A380 would fly with the current 1-2-1 business class layout for the rest of its service. Now, it seems passengers could have flown their last trip on the Qatar Airways jumbo.
Will you miss Qatar’s A380s? Care to share any memories of flying on these beautiful birds? Let us know in the comments.