Qatar Airways Outlines Early A380 Retirement Plans

Qatar Airways’ Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, has confirmed that the airline will retire its 10 A380s from 2024. Flight Global is reporting that Qatar’s boss said the A380 has only a limited future with the airline. Qatar Airways received its first A380 in 2014, and its final one only last year.

Qatar Airways has confirmed it is retiring its A380s. Photo: Qatar Airways

The Qatari A380s currently scoot off to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Bangkok, Frankfurt, London, Paris and Guangzhou from its Doha base.

The A380s are anomalous with the rest of Qatar Airways long haul fleet. They are the only Qatar Airways planes to have a first class cabin but lack the fabulous Qsuite business class seat, arguably the world’s best business class product and a favourite with long haul passengers.

Akbar Al Baker says Qatar Airways plans to replace the A380s with brand new Boeing 777Xs. They have 60 due from the manufacturer. The first 777X is yet to take to the skies with the first flight repeatedly postponed and now scheduled for later in 2019. There are issues with the GE9X engines and a redesign is needed.

Many airlines make plans to retire their A380s

The Qatari A380 announcement comes as several other airlines recently announced plans to retire their A380s.

Qantas Airbus A380
Qantas will only operate their A380s for another 10 years. Photo: Qantas

Earlier this month, Qantas announced it would be retiring its 12 A380s from 2029. Likewise, the world’s biggest A380 customer, Emirates, has also confirmed that they will be phasing out their A380s from the mid-2030s. Lufthansa is selling six of their 14 A380s back to Airbus in the 2022/23 financial year, citing profitability issues.

However, Qatar’s announcement reveals that the airline is moving fast. While the cost of A380s are usually amortised over a 10 year span, retiring any aircraft after just 10 years of flying is unusual.

It suggests that the commercial aviation market is changing fast. Faster perhaps than most airlines anticipated when they were ordering up the A380’s in the early and mid-2000s.

A pilot’s take on why the A380 never really took off

In a podcast interview with Australian Frequent Flyer, John Bartels, a retired A380 pilot says :

“The aeroplane (A380) was designed for an era that no longer exists. It was quite late, when they should have really been in service around 2000 or so, and in the interim the big twins had really taken over.

“The fuel consumption of the twins per passenger is quite a lot lower and whilst the A380 will work with a big load, it doesn’t work as well with a smaller load. The other thing is that it is a very large aeroplane. It’s hard to fill, so the airlines have problems with that.

“If you ran two 787s Sydney – Dallas versus one A380, you’ve got about the same number of seats, you have a slightly higher crew loading and crew costs. But, your fuel burn is probably going to be less and your flexibility from a marketing side of things is way better.

Boeing 777-9
Big twin jets like the Boeing 777 help defeat the A380. Photo: Boeing

“And you can go to other places. The A380 can only go to 150 or so airports in the world and even then they’re quite restricted in where they can go. The 787 can go anywhere. And that applies to the 777 and the A350.

“Basically the A380 was defeated by the 777 and to another degree by the A350.”

Where to for the Qatari A380s?

While Airbus is will support a second hand market for their A380s, the market so far has been proved to be practically non existent, and the odds are that the Qatar Airways’ A380s will end up in a scrapyard.

Airlines like Singapore and Malaysian have been trying to sell some of their A380s for some time but there are no buyers.

John Bartels believes that the second hand market won’t build up. The A380s are simply too big and if Singapore can’t sell theirs, the chances of Qatar Airways selling their A380s are even less.

Still, one doubts that is a major concern for Akbar Al Baker and his team at Qatar Airways.