CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, has spoken today about the airline’s plans for its Airbus A380s. He stated that, until he sees growth of similar levels to 2019, the superjumbo will not be making a return. Those airlines wishing to operate it before the growth is there, he said, are ‘very foolish.’
No place for the A380 short term
Qatar Airways was one of the first airlines to pull its Airbus A380 from its schedules. While the airline has previously mulled a return in 2021, today, its CEO Akbar Al Baker stated that there is no forecast return of the type for at least a couple of years. In an interview for FlightGlobal’s ‘Airlines 2050’ event, Al Baker stated,
“I don’t think that the A380 will get back into the skies in the short term. The growth rate will have to be the growth rate we achieved in 2019 for us to consider the A380.”
While we have seen a few A380s gracing our skies, none have been in Qatar Airways livery. Indeed, Al Baker was clear on his opinion of airlines who do want to start using the superjumbo sooner than expected. He said,
“People who want to fly the A380 sooner than getting back to 2019 [growth] levels I think will be very foolish. There will not be that kind of demand. If the demand starts growing and people start deploying the A380 they will only be able to achieve this by dumping the price. And once you dump the price, it becomes unsustainable.”
For the Qatar CEO, the overall message was clear. The outlook of its long-haul fleet, at least in the foreseeable future, is in the Airbus A350 and the 787 Dreamliner. Al Baker summed it up saying,
“We don’t think that we are going to operate our A380s for at least the next couple of years.”
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An eye on sustainability
The Qatar CEO noted that it was not only the removal of unnecessary capacity that had spurred the airline to park its A380s. It was also with an eye on the environmental costs of flying these giants of the sky. Al Baker stated,
“We recently benchmarked the Airbus A380 against the Airbus A350 on routes from Doha to London, Guangzhou, Frankfurt, Paris, Melbourne, Sydney, New York and Toronto and the results were astonishing.
“We found that, on a typical one way flight, the Airbus A350 aircraft saved a minimum of 16 tons of CO2 per block hour compared to the Airbus A380. Analysis also found that the Airbus A380 emitted over 80% more carbon dioxide per block hour than the Airbus A350 on each of these routes.
“Sustainable, fuel efficient fleets will be key to not only surviving this current crisis, but also essential to the future success of airlines.”
Of course, while CO2 savings are good for the airline’s public image and its sustainability goals, it also translates almost directly into savings on fuel costs. Although the price of fuel has plummeted amid the pandemic, operating a leaner, more efficient fleet through the recovery will provide a cushion to airlines going forward.