Second Hand Airbus A380s May Soon Become A Lot Cheaper

Airbus is setting out to drive down the cost of acquiring second hand A380s through a new partnership with a Singapore Airlines MRO business. Heavy Maintenance Singapore Services (HMSS) is working closely with Airbus to refine the process of refitting A380s, in a bid to slash unnecessary costs and make it a more attractive second hand prospect.

Could cheaper refits make the A380 more popular on the second hand market? Photo: Getty

A $30m plus refit bill

One of the biggest costs involved when taking a new aircraft, aside from the purchase itself, is getting it configured internally for the airline. Back when Air France CEO Ben Smith was explaining why the airline doesn’t want the giant jumbo anymore, he mentioned a figure of some $38m to refit the cabins inside.

Alex Cruz, CEO of British Airways, thought the same, telling Flight Global the cost to reconfigure the aircraft “can run to between $30-50 million” per aircraft. This, he said, was a deciding factor in British Airways choosing the 777-9 over second hand A380s.

British Airways, Airbus A380
British Airways opted for the 777-9 over more A380s. Photo: Getty Images

Clearly, this is a substantial investment on top of the cost of leasing or purchasing the metal itself. Most airlines pride themselves on their branding, and therefore desire their own seats, layouts and designs to be implemented, even in a second hand aircraft.

However, Airbus is looking to tackle this somewhat restrictive cost of refurbishment by working to make it cheaper. In partnership with Singapore Airlines’ MRO business, Heavy Maintenance Singapore Services (HMSS), Airbus aims to reduce this outlay, making the aircraft more attractive to a second hand buyer. Remi Maillard, senior vice-president for Airbus services told Flight Global,

“HMSS specializes in A380 heavy maintenance and major components. It has just completed the first cabin retrofit for SIA. So we’ll be using the HMSS MRO as a showcase to demonstrate that we can offer major upgrades of the A380 in a competitive way.”

A more affordable refit

Airbus Services is working with SIA Engineering Company to retrofit 14 A380s from the existing Singapore Airlines fleet. These aircraft will receive the cabin products that were chosen for SIA’s five recently delivered A380s, in what Airbus describes as an ‘extensive retrofit program’.

SIA A380 New Business Class
The new cabins being fitted in SIA’s A380s. Photo: Airbus

The ongoing program sees Airbus taking the lead on Service Bulletins as well as the delivery of parts for the aircraft cabin. The teams from Airbus also pitch in with their extensive A380 design knowledge and engineering expertise, both remotely and on-site.

Having Airbus expertise on the ground can avoid many of the common issues that can cause added costs and delays to the installation. This is particularly the case when the customer requires a heavily customized interior product, as is the case with SIA’s refits.

The first A380 was completed in June last year, with the remaining 13 undergoing a rolling program of refits. By the time they get to the end of that job, Airbus and HMSS should have the processes honed to a fine art.

HMSS is a joint venture between SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC) and Airbus, with SIAEC holding 65% of the company and Airbus 35%. If all goes to plan and the two entities can work together to drive down the costs of A380 refits, the second hand market for the giant jumbo could get some much needed stimulation.

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