One of the many ways our travel lives will change going forward is the loss of the Airbus A380 Super Jumbo Jet, all but killed off by coronavirus.
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Airlines Retiring Some or All of Their A380 Fleet
With passenger loads lighter for the near future, smaller aircraft make more sense and many now exceed the distance of the A380. Few carriers offer the type, some have retired them permanently already. Here are the carriers that operated the A380 prior to coronavirus with announced changes to their fleets:
- Air France (fully retired)
- British Airways (unchanged fleet size)
- China Southern
- Emirates (likely reducing fleet from 115 to 59)
- Lufthansa (Fleet size halved)
- Malaysian (struggled prior to coronavirus with the fleet)
- Qantas (future uncertain)
- Singapore (retired many from the fleet but have not announced full retirement)
Airbus Shuts Down Production
Jumbo Jet demand has been low for some time but the A380 was put out of its misery in February, 2020. While remaining orders for delivery were thought to have possibly kept the line afloat or even reversed its closure, lowered demand due to coronavirus has put the final nail in the A380’s coffin.
Why Have These Planes Fallen Out of Favor?
While the planes were once seen as the flagship aircraft to replace the Queen of the Skies, the 747, many carriers that flew 747s didn’t immediately replace them with the A380. British Airways and Qantas, for example, flew both. So did Korean, Lufthansa, and others.
The Super Jumbo Jet is less advantageous for carriers due to its high cost and important load factor. Smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft provide greater schedule flexibility for customers with a lower cost per passenger and per flight.
Remembering the A380
Carly and I have had the pleasure of flying the A380 just a few times, and Lucy just twice. I loved the grandiosity of the aircraft and just how high it stood off the ground. I loved the cameras built into the plane that allowed aviation geeks like myself to watch the take-off and landing or approach into busy cities like New York, Seoul, and Los Angeles.
Most of those flights were aborad the Korean Air A380 which dates back to my very first blog post (be kind, it was a long time ago.)
I also had the chance to fly the aircraft with Qatar Airways.
It will be sad to see such a beautiful aircraft’s legacy end like the A380’s will. Some carriers will continue to fly the carrier, but any hopes of restarting the line have been dashed and it’s unlikely many of the carriers will fly the type long term. Snapping up tickets on the Super Jumbo should be a priority for any enthusiast before it’s too late.
What do you think? Have you flown the A380? What will you miss about it?
The lack of cargo capacity was the final nail in the coffin. Only Korean Air would staff it appropriately to keep service levels even in economy. Airports will never recover the expenditures to reinforce runways to accommodate the weight.
I don’t know if we can call it a coronavirus fatality…it was most likely on it’s way out even without the pandemic happening, the A380s demise was most likely were just accelerated.
“While remaining orders for delivery were thought to have possibly kept the line afloat or even reversed its closure”
The only thing keeping the line afloat at the time was Emirates, everyone else had more or less moved on from this type of plane. It was like anybody else was going to wake up one day and place more orders for this plane.
Absolutely terrible. Even though I flew it only a few times and in first I thought it was magnificent.
Then again aviation people are no longer in the industry. Only number crunchers.
And this generation of passengers are no longer discerning guests. Just greyhound bus types which is exactly what the carriers desire.
I flew Air France’s A380 in Business Class from Paris to Johannesburg and back.
Boarding in both cities reminded me of the last hour aboard ‘Titanic’, when those onboard realized the unsinkable liner was not going to float, and there were just a few lifeboats left for 1,500 people… Total chaos.
At CDG, one would have thought it was the first ever departure of an A380, even though the aircraft had been in service for several years.
On board, in the smaller, quieter, forward Business Cabin, the plane was surprisingly utilitarian looking. Oddest to me was that while there was a lavatory all the way forward on the port side, there was just empty floor space to starboard, with a row of bulkhead-mounted screens showing French tourism videos on a loop. Facing the screens was an uncomfortable bench, too narrow to sit on. What was Air France thinking? A second forward lavatory would have been more logical, considering the number of Business Class seats. On my flights that miniature ‘theater’ area only served as a place for people to stand while waiting to get into the single bathroom.
Most disappointing of all were the Business seats, which as everyone on any airline blog knows by now, did not fully recline. Such a REALLY STUPID decision on the part of Air France. Like most people, I spent my night hours trying to keep from sliding down towards the foot well.
The warm and gracious flight attendants, and the choice & quality of meals and beverages were up to Air France’s usual high standards. I have homes in Canada and France and fly back and forth between them about every three months – have done so for years – and am very loyal to the French carrier because I think the onboard experience is consistently the best across the Atlantic. (My transatlantic hip-hopping dates back to the 707’s, each of which was named for a famous French chateau.)
To me the A380 looks superb in Air France colors, and I’ll miss seeing them around. But for onboard comfort in Business Class, my first choice between Canada and France is the A350, followed by the (reconfigured!) 777.
The premium cabin products onboard Air France’s A380 were some of the most uncompetitive in the industry: they were the only operator to actually not have lie-flat seats in business on the A380! Just bizarre when most other airlines used the A380 to showcase their latest and greatest.
I don’t know the economics well enough, but I wonder if there’s an opportunity for an LCC/ULCC to buy them very cheaply and operate them on routes like JFK-LAX/SFO cheaper per seat mile (assuming they can fill it) than any of the competitors? Maybe one level with a Mint-like biz class at a better price than the others?
Qantas haven’t retired any A380s, I’m not sure why this was believed to be true, but it’s not.
Qantas have however stopped their cabin upgrades, with roughly half upgraded with new Business class seats, refurbished first class seats, larger and newer premium economy. And larger screens and refurbished seating in economy class.
@Theo – I have found conflicting information so I updated the post to say “future uncertain” and I appreciate you bringing it to my attention.