Which Airlines Leased Hi Fly’s Airbus A380?

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Hi Fly Malta is a Maltese subsidiary of Portuguese charter airline Hi Fly. The carrier is known for having operated an Airbus A380 in a striking ‘Save The Coral Reefs’ livery. This paint scheme raised environmental awareness, warning against coral reef destruction on its travels.

Hi Fly Malta Airbus A380 Getty
Amid falling demand, Hi Fly Malta withdrew the aircraft from service in December 2020. Photo: Getty Images

As a charter aircraft, it was able to spread this message all over the world. But which airlines leased 9H-MIP during the ex-Singapore Airlines A380’s time at Hi Fly Malta? Let’s have a look at some examples.

Norwegian

Low-cost carrier Norwegian was one of 9H-MIP’s more prominent users between 2018 and 2020. One of the reasons it leased the aircraft was to clear a backlog of delayed passengers caused by the London Gatwick drone incident in December 2018. The A380’s extra capacity over Norwegian’s Boeing 787s was crucial in getting transatlantic passengers home for Christmas.

Reduced ‘Dreamliner’ availability also saw the aircraft return to Norwegian’s Gatwick-New York JFK route in August 2019. The following month, Norwegian operated 9H-MIP on its low-cost New York services from several other European cities, including Oslo, Paris, and Stockholm. The latter of these was the first-ever A380 flight out of the Swedish capital.

Norwegian Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner LN-LND
The A380 offered extra capacity over Norwegian’s Boeing 787 fleet. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Air Madagascar

Summer 2019 also marked an aviation milestone for the African island nation of Madagascar. Its flag carrier leased 9H-MIP to temporarily replace an Airbus A340, which required engine work. In doing so, the aircraft became the first A380 to land in Madagascar, when it arrived in Antananarivo on a scheduled flight from Paris on June 30th, 2019. Curiously, a Wamos Air Boeing 747 operated the return leg to Paris instead of Hi Fly Malta’s superjumbo.

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Air Senegal

Senegal represents another African nation that saw a flight land from Paris operated by 9H-MIP in 2019. Technical difficulties with the Airbus A330-900 that typically operated this route brought Hi Fly Malta’s A380 into play for flight HC404 on April 19th, 2019.

Hi Fly Malta Airbus A380
9H-MIP spent just over a month in storage in Toulouse following its withdrawal. It had its livery removed during this time, and it has since transferred to Abu Dhabi. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr

Air Austral

In August 2018, Air Austral flew 9H-MIP to one of its most remote destinations. Again, the flight departed from Paris, which was evidently the place to go if you wanted to catch a glimpse of this rare aircraft! It flew thrice-weekly in late-August and early September 2018 to Saint-Denis on the Indian Ocean island and French overseas department of Réunion.

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Estelar Airlines

Venezuelan carrier Estelar Airlines had not been explicitly looking to lease 9H-MIP in July 2019. Indeed, it was already leasing another Hi Fly aircraft, namely an Airbus A340, at the time. However, when this plane needed to be sent for repairs, the A380 stepped in to fill the gap for two weeks. It operated Estelar’s scheduled services between Madrid and Caracas in this spell.

A charter for football fans

In each of the previous instances, airlines leased the A380 to provide cover or extra capacity on scheduled services. However, it has also seen action on one-off charters for sporting events, for which thousands of fans need transporting in a short period of time.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-841 9V-SKR
Hi Fly Malta’s A380 initially belonged to Singapore Airlines. The Singaporean flag carrier received the aircraft in March 2008. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

One of these was the 2019 Europa League final, which took place between British clubs Arsenal and Chelsea in Baku, Azerbaijan. With limited scheduled flights between the UK and Baku, several charters were operated before the game in May 2019.

The one that provoked the most interest from an avgeek’s perspective had to be that involving 9H-MIP. This represented the first-ever A380 flight out of London Stansted, which has limited facilities for handling such large aircraft. Chelsea ended up winning the match by a score of 4-1, capping off a great few days for anyone in the middle ring of the Chelsea fans/A380 fans Venn diagram!

Did you ever fly on Hi Fly Malta’s Airbus A380 during any of its lease periods with the aforementioned airlines? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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