Singapore Airlines Keeping Quiet On A380 Retirement Plans

On the back of the first loss in Singapore Airlines’ history, the company has shed some light on its future fleet plans. While the oldest 777s and the A330-300s are due to be phased out, nothing was mentioned about the superjumbo A380. Will it return for SIA eventually, or will the airline follow others and remove it from the fleet?

Singapore Airlines A380
Will the A380 come back to Singapore Airlines? Photo: Getty Images

SIA planning widebody retirements

Singapore Airlines’ full-year results call has shed a little more light on the impact of the COVID pandemic for the airline. As with so many others, the airline is planning to accelerate the retirement of some types but is remarkably quiet on others.

The earnings call revealed that Singapore Airlines will phase out its older widebody jets, including the Boeing 777-200ER and the Airbus A330-300. These are likely to leave the fleet soon, and certainly by the end of the current financial year. Senior vice president of finance Stephen Barnes told FlightGlobal that,

“[SIA] will not need the same sized fleet that we had.”

Specifically, the Boeing 777-200s, of which Singapore Airlines operates six, will see their retirement expedited. All these aircraft are between 16 and 19 years old, and none are currently in operation for the airline.

SIA B777-200ER
The older 777-200s will be gone by the financial year end. Photo: Singapore Airlines

The A330-300s, on the other hand, are all relatively young aircraft. One is over 11 years old, but the rest are all just six years in service or less. However, they are all leased are were due for a lease renewal in the next 12 – 14 months. Barnes told FlightGlobal,

“[They] are due to leave the fleet in the next 12 to 14 months and we will not be extending the leases.”

Like many other airlines, Singapore is predicting a long and slow recovery. As such, it is attempting to right-size its fleet now for a lower level of demand in the short to medium term. However, there is one plane type for which SIA has not revealed plans.

Is the A380 staying?

The world’s biggest plane has perhaps been the hardest hit during the current crisis. As demand for travel sagged, the A380 was the first type to experience widespread grounding. Right now, just one airline is still operating the type, up from none at all at the end of April.

Increasingly, airlines are accelerating the retirement of the giant jumbo, with Lufthansa removing six from its fleet and other airlines anticipating not returning them to their fleets. Even its biggest fan in the Middle East was quoted as saying “it’s over” for the type.

Singapore A380
SIA was the launch customer for the superjumbo. Photo: Getty Images

SIA’s history with the A380 goes back over a decade. As the launch operator of the type, Singapore Airlines flew the world’s first superjumbo in October 2007. Although it’s only operated 24 of the type, that still makes it Airbus’ second-biggest customer for the A380.

Five have already left the fleet, four to the Dr. Peters Group for scrapping, and one to Hi Fly. Of the other 19, all are currently stored, many in Australia’s Alice Springs. But will they return to Singapore Airlines when demand begins to pick up again? The airline hasn’t said.

Chief executive Goh Choon Phong told FlightGlobal,

“The shape of recovery in this particular crisis is still uncertain. We have flexibility around our fleet, and we will look at what we need to do in terms of matching fleet requirements and market outlook.”

That leaves the door open to retire the A380, should SIA consider that the way to go. But with five of the fleet only two to three years old, it’s likely the airline will be keen to get some value from its investment before giving up on the type.

Do you think we’ll see Singapore Airlines’ A380s back in action? Let us know in the comments.