Air France will retire its Airbus A380 fleet ahead of schedule for at least six unique reasons.
1. A380 Fleet is Too Small
Smith argued that with only 10 aircraft, delays or cancellations create an unnecessarily large burden. Without extra A380s sitting around, issues on full flights create a ripple effect since passengers cannot simply be transferred to another aircraft in most cases.
2. A380 is Operationally Unreliable
Smith called the A380 “the poorest performer from an operational perspective” blaming many delays and cancellations on the A380 itself.
3. Unplanned Heavy Maintenance Checks
Smith cited “unplanned” heavy maintenance checks on these aircrafts, noting that upcoming engine overhauls will cost €55 million per aircraft.
4. Pricey Interior Cabin Retrofits
In addition to the maintenance overhauls, the A380 cabin interiors are in need of retrofit, a process that would cost €30-40 million per aircraft.
5. Reduced Frequencies
Smith noted that such a large aircraft comes at the expense of reduced frequencies, while business travelers prefer small aircraft if it means more schedule choice. Thus, “The airplane does not offer us any economical advantage versus other airplanes.”
6. No Compelling Slot Restrictions At A380 Airports
In what I found to be the most interesting point, Smith argued that the large airports the A380 currently flies to do not have capacity restraints that warrant an A380.
Then there is a last item which is unique for Air France. Charles de Gaulle Airport here is not full. We can add frequencies. British Airways at Heathrow is full. Frankfurt is full. Look at the airports that we fly to around the world where such an airplane would be of use. In New York Kennedy, we have five slots. The requirement for an A380 is not there. There’s room at Kennedy. It’s just the prime times that are full. Los Angeles is not full. We use the 380 there. Miami is not full, San Francisco is not full. Mexico City is not full. The need for using an airplane that maximizes a slot is not there.
Smith logically and unemotionally outlines six persuasive reasons why Air France will retire its A380 superjumbo jet. Put together, you simply cannot fault Air France for its decision to retire this aircraft ahead of schedule.
image: Air France