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Qatar Airways to Ground Airbus A380 Sumperjumbos for at Least a Year But Maybe Forever

Qatar Airways to Ground Airbus A380 Sumperjumbos for at Least a Year But Maybe Forever

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker says the airline’s 10 Airbus A380 superjumbos will remain grounded until the second half of 2021 at the earliest and may never return as a result of a continued slump in travel demand stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Doha-based airline had previously reinstated some of its A380’s in March to deal with a temporary and unexpected surge in demand for repatriation flights but has since parked the doubledeck planes again as schedules are scaled back.

While Qatar Airways had planned to retire its A380’s by 2024, the reality is that they may have already made their last commercial flights. “Qatar Airways is parking its 10 A380s and they will not return for at least a year, and maybe never,” Baker admitted during a press conference.

Photo Credit: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways hopes to resume services to 52 destinations by the end of May and has plans to increase that number to 80 destinations by June. The airline has remained flying throughout the pandemic but is currently only serving around 30 international destinations. In a statement, Qatar Airways said it would “take full advantage of its diverse and efficient fleet with the right aircraft size to ensure the best fit for expected demand on each planned route.”

The Airbus A380 is very unlikely to be the right aircraft size for the expected demand for some considerable time… if ever.

Baker said the airline would ground around 25 per cent of its fleet for the foreseeable future and there are plans to defer or delay planned aircraft deliveries until 2023. This year alone, Qatar Airways had planned to take delivery of 40 aircraft.

The often outspoken chief executive expects it to take “two to three years” for travel demand to return to pre-Coronavirus levels unless “a miracle” were to occur in the next 12-months.

“I think I would be very surprised if things will happen before 2023/2024,” he continued.

But of plans to resume services, Baker said he was “sure there will be demand”. The airline believes it will be able to fill between 50 to 60 per cent of seats. “There are still a lot of people stranded around the world (and) people who want to visit their loved ones.”

Qatar’s regional rival Emirates said on Sunday that it believed it would take at least 18-months for “some semblance” of normality to return to the industry. Last week, Emirates president Sir Tim Clark declared the “Airbus A380 is over” and forecast a reduction in the size of the airline of between 20 and 30 per cent.

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