Yesterday, Air France announced that it would be retiring its Airbus A380 fleet with immediate effect. While the news was somewhat expected due to current sentiment towards the superjumbo during financially difficult times, it was the end of an era for the airline. We take a look at where Air France flew its A380s and what it plans to do next.
A380s heading into retirement
Over the past few months, there has been a lot of discussion about the A380. What will happen to the aircraft after the coronavirus pandemic? How will airlines manage the cost? Where are they being stored?
Just yesterday, Air France became the latest airline to sacrifice the A380 in the interest of capital gain. Although the airline indicted poor efficiency and high CO2 emissions levels for the retirement, Air France may have also just improved its financial prospects.
The carrier had nine A380s until yesterday, five of which it owned and four leased. (It had begun the year with 10 but retired its first aircraft just two days into 2020.) The aircraft operated out of Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG), which had capacity at its Satellite 4 terminal to take six A380 aircraft at a time.
According to iflyA380, this dedicated long-haul terminal saw the arrival and departure of Air France’s A380s to and from:
- North America: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, Mexico, New York, San Francisco, and Washington.
- Africa: Johannesburg.
- Asia: Shanghai.
According to Air France, the aircraft was also scheduled to fly to:
- Abidjan, Ivory Coast
- Hong Kong.
What happens now?
No doubt, it will be sad for some to come to terms with the fact that they will never fly the A380 with Air France again. Air France signed as a customer back in 2001 and was the first airline in Europe to operate the superjumbo jet.
— JFA (@jfaairbus) May 21, 2020
However, the cost of maintaining the aircraft was just too much, and Air France does have an innovative replacement imminent.
For a few years now, the airline has signaled that the A380 may not be the best choice for the carrier. In 2018, the CEO announced that a 2021 retirement was on the cards due to cost and poor efficiency. However, Air France had been hopeful at that time. It was planning to retrofit some of its A380 cabins.
Despite that, the following year, the airline revised its retirement of the A380 owing to how expensive a cabin retrofit would be. Knowing that the A380 was on its way out, Air France has been preparing to replace the aircraft with A350-900s.
A350s will replace the A380
With newer technology, better fuel efficiency, and an enhanced range, the A350 is a clear winner to replace the A380. They also cost significantly less to buy and less to maintain. Added to that, the financial loss from not being able to fill the aircraft is mitigated by fewer seats. The A350-900 has nearly half the capacity (315 seats) of the A380-800 (525 seats).
Before it cut a significant proportion of its services due to the coronavirus, Air France already had a summer schedule for the A350-900. It plans to fly the aircraft between:
- Abidjan, Ivory Coast
- Atlanta, United States
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Bamako, Mali
- Boston, United States, and
- Washington, United States.
Are you sad to see Air France’s A380 go? Did you fly the aircraft on any of these routes? Let us know in the comments.