Earlier this month, Air France quietly retired the first of its Airbus A380s. Its entire fleet of 11 A380 aircraft will be retired by the end of 2022. The first plane to retire, an A380-861, was recently seen in a new all-white livery, prompting the question; what will happen to the aircraft now?
Upon the aircraft’s retirement, it was returned to the lessor where it received its new, all-white makeover. There was some initial talk of the aircraft being scrapped, as a French facility had recently completed an 11-month long process of dismantling the first A380 to be scrapped. Perhaps this jet was to suffer the same fate?
However, the new paint job has sparked rumors that the plane will not be scrapped. After all, why bother to spend time and money painting a plane, only to scrap it? So where will it go now it’s had a fresh coat?
Current speculation is that the plane will be leased or sold to another airline. Rumour mill favorite as the new operator of the aircraft is Hi Fly. Hi Fly is a Portuguese wet-lease specialist who already operates an A380. The company had previously speculated it might take another A380 in the future. Perhaps this old Air France jet is exactly what it’s looking for?
Wet leasing is where a company provides, not just a plane, but also the crew and fuel to cover specific routes. So although you can’t go online and book to fly with Hi Fly, you might find yourself flying with them anyway. Leased planes from Hi Fly tend to only be short-term leases, not the long-term two-to-three-year leases of other airlines. Generally, Hi Fly is called in to provide support when other airlines need to fill gaps in their services due to lack of their own aircraft.
Hi Fly has the only second-hand Airbus A380 in use by a wet-lease company. It’s current A380, registration 9H-MIP, is an ex-Singapore Airlines plane which has been regularly used by Norwegian to cover the ongoing issues with its Boeing Aircraft.
Who else might want an A380?
Another potential new home for the jet is Emirates. Emirates operates the biggest fleet of A380s in the world. And having another aircraft as back-up is never a bad thing. However, Emirates generally buys its planes fresh from the factory the first time around. The airline has also recently placed a massive order for 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and 50 Airbus A350-900 XWBs. So perhaps they aren’t looking for a second-hand A380.
Vietnam’s Bamboo Airlines also may have some interest in acquiring the A380. It announced this year that it has plans to open a new route direct to the US. The airline has applied for permission to open a route to either Los Angeles or San Francisco in 2020. The airline mentioned using a leased A380 for the route saying that,
“Not only are there logistical challenges, but adding a large aircraft with significant capacity like this instance requires carefully thought out planning”.
Of course, an alternative is that as yet, no one has snapped up the aircraft. There is always the possibility that the lessor has painted the aircraft white to encourage a new buyer. Seeing the aircraft newly fresh and white rather than in its old Air France livery may encourage a new operator.
Where do you think the retired Air France A380 will end up? Let us know in the comments below.