Why the super giant A380 is back

(CNN) — The post-pandemic recovery of commercial aviation may have an early, unlikely protagonist: the A380 supergiant.

The world’s largest passenger aircraft looks like a landfill just two years ago when airlines were battling the spread of the coronavirus. The entire fleet was shut down, many aircraft went into long-term storage, and some airlines even took the chance to get rid of their A380s altogether with Air France. decommissioning your fleet in May 2020.
But now, with passenger numbers on the rise and air traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels, the aircraft is experiencing a resurgence. According to the data Flightradar24.

Emirates has the largest fleet of A380s in the world.

PASCAL PAVANI/AFP via Getty Images

Lufthansa was the latest airline to announce plane return — though not until 2023 — and there is reason to believe that more A380s will gradually return to the skies.

“It’s definitely a comeback,” says Jeff Van Klaveren, aviation analyst and managing director of consulting at IBA. “Operators were very reluctant to return it because it’s a very expensive aircraft, but I think we’ve seen demand recover faster than people expected.”

More returns

Airbus produced and delivered 251 A380s, 238 of which remain in service today, while the remainder have been retired or scrapped. An aircraft that is no longer in production is popular with passengers and crew, but not with airlines. only 14 were active this is for today.

Of these, nine are currently flown by British Airways, All Nippon Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Qatar, Asiana, Korean Air and China Southern Airlines. Some of them are already planning to bring even more of their A380s back into service.

Singapore Airlines, for example, currently operates 10 of its 12 A380s, but confirmed to CNN Travel that the remaining two are currently being upgraded and will be back in the fleet soon. Korean Air also said it will return a third A380 from its fleet of 10 aircraft to join two already in service.

Qantas, which operates three of its 12 A380s on the Sydney-Singapore-London route, confirmed to CNN Travel that it intends to return six aircraft to service before the end of the year and plans to restore four more. by 2024 (the remaining two are to be written off).

Emirates, the largest A380 operator with 123 aircraft, is also gaining momentum. “Today we are working […] more than half of our A380s,” said Richard Jewsbury, vice president of Emirates UK. “By the end of the year, we plan to have around 90 A380s across our entire network.” A380s will join those currently flying.

latest A380 ever produced, went to Emirates in late 2021. It is one of the few Emirates A380 aircraft that includes Premium Economy Class, a cross between Basic Economy and Business Class.

It has proven so popular that the airline plans to upgrade 67 more of its A380s over 18 months starting later this year. In this four-class configuration, including First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy, the aircraft can accommodate 484 passengers. In the densest two-class configuration, consisting only of business and economy class, the Emirates A380 can accommodate 615 passengers.

hard sell

Lufthansa has announced that it will be bringing back its A380s in 2023.

Lufthansa has announced that it will be bringing back its A380s in 2023.

Thomas Lones/Getty Images

There are several reasons why airlines are reverting to supergiants. “The capacity of wide-body aircraft is not sufficient because some operators such as British Airways have retired older aircraft such as the Boeing 747. There have also been some production issues with the new A350 etc. So some airlines need capacity,” says Wang. Clavern.

That’s not all. For some airlines, returning an aircraft to service makes sense because the cost of the aircraft has fallen so much that it is no longer possible to sell them.

“Some operators have realized that this aircraft is very difficult to sell for various reasons. If you don’t have an A380, you’re definitely not going to take it into your fleet because it’s very risky and expensive,” says Wang. Clavern.

“The cost of a 10-year-old A380 has dropped 60% from its pre-pandemic period to $30 million from about $76 million, which is pretty unusual. [airlines] I think they might as well operate them because keeping them airworthy costs them money.”

Two airlines, Thai and Malaysia, have put all their A380s up for sale, but have yet to find buyers. The only opponent at the moment is Etihad; the Abu Dhabi-based airline has 10 aircraft in its fleet but does not operate any of them and currently has no firm plans to do so.

shorter life

Emirates recently launched the new A380 cabin, including premium economy class.

Emirates recently launched the new A380 cabin, including premium economy class.

Emirates Group

Compared to the gloomy predictions of two years ago, now may be the time to envision a brighter future for the supergiant.

“I think most airlines will continue to operate aircraft for the rest of their lives,” says Van Klaveren. “The question is whether this lifetime is more like 18 years than 25 years, which is the lifetime of most aircraft. the average age will decrease.

Since Emirates has so many A380s, the fate of the aircraft will largely be in their hands. “I think they will make them all fly again because they are very important to their business model,” says Van Klaveren.

The Dubai-based airline continues to enthusiastically support the aircraft.

Emirates President Tim Clark Airline ratings that once the A380 is gone, there will be a void that no other aircraft currently in production can fill: “I would build another A380 twice the size because of the zero emission engines we have there are now, with four, perhaps three engines,” he added.

For now, the A380 continues to be well-received by customers around the world and will remain the airline’s flagship aircraft for years to come, says Emirates’ Richard Jewsbury.

“For us, the iconic double-decker bus is redefining the way we travel and it will continue to be an important pillar of our network plans.”

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