During the peak of COVID-19, airlines quickly retired their 4-engine aircraft, or put them into long-term storage without much chance to return. The demise of the A380s started even before that, with Airbus announcing the end of deliveries in 2019 (scheduled for 2021). Some airlines already started taking the superjumbos out of service, which was then accelerated by the pandemic.
However, as airports remain congested and slot-restricted, airlines started to reconsider their stance on larger aircraft. That left many airlines reactivating their Airbus A380s. In this article, we take a look at which routes will see A380 flights this summer.
If you’re not into the A380 (why?) or you also love the other double-deck airplane, we also did a post about the 747 back in December.
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As some airlines like Lufthansa and Etihad are in the phase of reactivating their A380s, we expect several changes to this network. Hence, we will update this article regularly. It’s also possible that some airlines will adjust their service and remove the A380s from some of these routes.
The British flag carrier reactivated all 12 of its Airbus A380s and put them on key routes with a focus on North America, in addition to flights to Dubai and Johannesburg.
If there is one airline that went all in on the superjumbos is Emirates. They found a great use for the giant aircraft which kept the program alive for many years. They have more than 80 aircraft in active service, making it (still) the largest A380 operator. With the exception of 5th freedom flights like Milan MXP – New York JFK, Bangkok BKK – Hong Kong HKG and Sydney – Christchurch, the flights start in their Dubai hub.
A private bedroom residence on a plane? Look no further, than Etihad. While there were concerns during the pandemic that we may lose this unparalleled product, the airline decided to reactivate its superjumbos. While London is the only one in the schedule now, it’s likely that other routes will be added.
The livery of the Korean SkyTeam member is definitely eye-catching. The logo is very often compared to a soft drink with very similar characteristics. When it comes to their fleet, they don’t limit themselves to the 747, but have a few A380s in their fleet too. They have ten, but about (at the time of writing, exactly) half of them are in storage. But retirement is on the books: in a 2021 FlightGlobal interview, the airline’s CEO gave them five years at max.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
ANA is probably the odd one out of all A380 operators. It’s the newest operator with fresh planes. The three A380s fly exclusively to Hawaii and are in the best A380 liveries (editor’s subjective opinion), especially since HiFly’s beautiful jets are gone.
While the smaller Korean airline is awaiting its merger with Korean Air, it reactivated a few of its six A380s. However, they will share the same fate as their new owner’s superjumbos: be retired by 2026. The Tokyo route is only scheduled for the peak summer period.
During the pandemic, it wasn’t obvious that Qantas will keep its superjumbos. However as Australia battles with high travel demand, but low supply, it was only natural that the airline brought its giants back. While not all of them are back of service yet, the majority are back in the air.
The Hong Kong route will only see occasional traffic until June.
If there was one very unhappy customer for the A380, it would be Qatar Airways – according to a Simple Flying interview last year (coincidentally the same time when the airline was in a battle with Airbus). Regardless of that, we can say that the superjumbo was mostly used for eco-heavy or cargo-heavy markets or for those that need a first class cabin onboard. This strategy hasn’t changed much since the airline reactivated the A380s.
From the same article, it looks like the airline will ground its A380s the moment 787 delivery delays stop and the Airbus peace takes effect and the A350s start arriving again. Which is a bit sad for passengers, but hopefully the old A330s go first?
Singapore Airlines – while downsized – didn’t retire its A380s, which means that you can enjoy this pretty good product for a while and on many routes. Although unfortunately, the A380 will not continue serving the Singapore – Frankfurt – New York route from May.
We are awaiting Lufthansa to update its route network following their announcement to bring back the type. While the number is unclear, the German carrier will likely base its A380s in Munich. The first airplanes already left the desert for maintenance. Lufthansa made implications that the superjumbos will have many years ahead of them and will outlive even the A330-300s and the A340s – as summarized by Aerotelegraph.
Lufthansa announced recently it will operate 4 A380s out of Munich, with Boston (starting June 1) and New York (staring July 4) being the first destinations.
Unfortunately, that seems to be it. China Southern’s planes sit in Mojave with a US owner and Malaysian A380s, withdrawn from use take an extended sun bath in Southern France – and are not done getting tanned. As Thai Airways bounces back to profitability, it may take a second look at the resting A380s in Thailand – if they have the resources for that.
During the pandemic, airlines retired the bigger planes one after the other. While many airlines communicated, that they are gone for long, many of them did give the planes a second chance. As capacity once again becomes the issue, airlines have to face a value proposition: is it worth paying the high maintenance fees and higher flying costs to fight capacity issues? Most of the previous operators thought so.
All in all, there are plenty of chances to fly the A380s in 2023. However, the future doesn’t look as bright. These planes are fairly old and operating them isn’t cheap. But only time will tell how long the Boeing 787 and 777 delivery delays will last. Deliveries from both giants will fasten up once and then the first thing to cross out will be these – subjectively- beautiful behemoths.
Cover Picture: © Miklós Budai 2022