**UPDATE 10/14/21 @ 19:50 UTC – A Qatar Airways spokesperson has shared details of the A380’s return; details below**
In March 2020, Qatar Airways grounded its entire Airbus A380 fleet. The airline holds ten units of the quadjet, which haven’t hit the skies in over a year and a half. However, some members of the superjumbo fleet are expected to be in the air again before the year is over.
A major U-turn
For many, this move would seem like a notable swerve from the airline. The carrier’s leadership has repeatedly shared that it hadn’t had much faith in the superjumbo in the new climate. Management has even expressed that the model is a thing of the past. Moreover, in May, CEO Akbar Al Baker told Simple Flying that the plane was the company’s biggest mistake.
Overall, the general consensus is that there were high hopes during the plane’s launch in the early 2000s, but the aviation industry had shifted significantly by the time the carrier entered regular service across the globe. More efficient twinjets such as the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 have become favorites among long-haul airlines. Subsequently, the pandemic is catalyzing the A380’s retirement.
Regardless of the opinion on the jet, it was expected that Qatar Airways’ A380s wouldn’t return to action until at least 2022. There were some hopes of an earlier comeback this summer, with Al Baker hinting that five units could fly again after all. Still, last month, the airline shared that it had taken an impairment on all ten of its A380s.
According to Business Traveller, two A380 operations will be conducted between Doha and London Heathrow in December. There will also be another service between Doha and Paris CDG.
From December 15th, QR9 is scheduled to leave Doha at 01:50 and land in the capital of London at 06:20. QR6 is set to leave Heathrow at 08:00 to land in Qatar’s capital at 17:50.
QR3 will depart Doha at 07:40 before landing in London at 12:10. QR4 will then head back at 14:10 to land in Doha at 23:55.
Meanwhile, QR39 will leave Doha at 07:55 to land in Paris at 13:05. QR40 will then fly out of the capital of France at 15:05 to touch down in Doha at 23:30.
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Never say never
This surprise return is more likely consequential than anything else. Qatar Airways recently grounded 16 A350s. This week, the carrier blamed composite cracks as the primary cause.
Nonetheless, the A380 is seeing progress this month. For instance, Emirates operated its first passenger A380 service to Istanbul. Additionally, British Airways is rumored to fly the jet on short-haul trips to Frankfurt and Madrid, with the flag carrier of the United Kingdom returning four units of the type next month.
Simple Flying reached out to Qatar Airways for comment on its Airbus A380 services. a spokesperson replied with the following:
“As a result of the grounding of a significant number of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 fleet by our regulator due to an ongoing issue relating to the fuselage surface below the paint, which is degrading at an accelerated rate, we have been left with no alternative but to bring a small number of our A380 fleet, in addition to some A330 aircraft, back into operation.
“This is to alleviate the current fleet challenges and support the anticipated increase in capacity requirements for our Winter schedule.”
As air travel picks up again globally, carriers need to ensure that they have the right vessels to meet the ever-changing requirements. There will undoubtedly be more twists and turns in the A380’s story this decade.
What are your thoughts about Qatar Airways resuming flights with its Airbus A380 aircraft? What do you make of this move by the airline? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.