Few things inspire wanderlust like the sight of a Singapore Airlines A380 rumbling down the coast. The big plane with its stylized bird on the tail is an icon of the skies. Singapore Airlines has 19 A380s but all are grounded as the travel downturn bites the airline hard. Worse, the fate of the Singapore Airlines A380 is up in the air. Like airlines everywhere, Singapore Airlines is running the ruler over the aircraft’s future.
The future of the Singapore Airlines A380 is under review
Last month, after announcing another unpleasant set of financial results, Singapore Airlines said it would be conducting a review of its fleet and network to reduce costs.
Its statement zeroed in on its A380s. In part, the statement read;
“This review is likely to lead to a material impairment in the carrying values of older generation aircraft., particularly the A380 aircraft, which would account for approximately $1 billion.”
That got people’s tongues wagging about the future of the A380 at Singapore Airlines.
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The A380s now sit idle at either Singapore or Alice Springs
While the majority of the airline’s A380 now sit idle at Changi Airport, seven have progressively been sent down to the long term storage facility at Alice Springs Airport in central Australia.
The database at planespotters.net indicated those seven planes are 9V-SKK, 9V-SKP, 9V-SKQ, 9V-SKT, 9V-SKW, 9V-SKW, and 9V-SKZ. The A380s make for a beautiful photo as they sit moodily in the red sand desert. But everyone is remaining quiet about how long they are staying there.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and, when appropriate, will return the A380 aircraft to Singapore ahead of reintroducing them to our operations,” said Singapore Airlines in May.
Before the travel downturn, Singapore Airlines deployed its A380s on flagship routes around the world. You’d see the planes at Heathrow, Sydney, Auckland, Narita, Frankfurt, New York, Dehli, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Zurich, and Paris. The Singapore Airlines A380s were well known, not just for their size, but for their outstanding cabins, including top-tier first class suites. A seat in a suite was on many traveler’s bucket lists.
The future for the Singapore Airlines A380 is up in the air
Whether Singapore Airlines’ A380s will ever fly passengers in those suites again is now uncertain. But if that turns out to be the case, it will be a sad end, especially since Singapore Airlines was the launch customer for the A380. But the outlook for the A380, in general, grows shakier by the week.
There has been recent speculation about the future of Lufthansa’s A380s, and today Qantas confirmed its A380 fleet would stay on the ground for at least the next three years. Only Emirates remains firmly behind the aircraft, and that, many would argue, is because they have no choice.
Despite Singapore tentatively re-opening its airport to some transit traffic, passenger traffic (and revenue) has collapsed for Singapore Airlines. Currently, Singapore’s Changi Airport is handling around 150 aircraft movements and 400 transit passengers a day. Usually, the airport would deal with 1000 aircraft movements and 55,000 transit passengers a day.
While traffic numbers remain at these levels, it seems unlikely any Singapore Airlines A380s will be carrying passengers anywhere anytime soon. Longer-term, the signs are mixed. Singapore Airlines is a resilient airline that doesn’t like to admit defeat. But the industry-wide signs regarding the future of the A380 are ominous. You might say, right now, it’s an even-money beat regarding Singapore Airlines and their A380s flying again.