Air France has brought forward the planned retirement of its fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos, announcing today that the double-deck aircraft will not return to commercial operations after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. The French flag carrier has nine A380’s in its fleet aged between 6 and 11 years old but they have all been grounded since March after the novel Coronavirus outbreak decimated the airline industry.
At list value, a brand new Airbus A380 is worth $445 million but Air France only expects to incur write off expenses of around €500 million for permanently decommissioning its A380 fleet early. The costs are likely to appear in the airline’s financial results in the second quarter meaning that the planes will be disposed of by June.
“In the context of the current COVID-19 crisis and its impact on anticipated activity levels, the Air France-KLM Group announces today the definitive end of Air France Airbus A380 operations,” the airline explained in a terse statement that heralds the early demise of yet more A380’s.
“Intially scheduled by the end of 2022, the phase-out of Airbus A380 fleet fits in the Air France-KLM Group fleet simplification strategy of making the fleet more competitive, by continuing its transformation with more modern, high-performance aircraft with a significantly reduced environmental footprint,” the statement continued.
Air France is currently only operating between 3 and 5 per cent of its normal schedule and a progressive increase in operations through to the end of June will only increase that number to around 15 per cent. The airline will operate just 75 aircraft out of a total fleet of 224 aircraft during this time.
Rival European airline Lufthansa is reviewing the future of its own A380 fleet, while Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has admitted that its A380’s may also never return to commercial operation. In the best case scenario, Baker believes the A380’s will be grounded for at least another year.
Emirates, the world’s largest operator of Airbus A380’s, is believed to be readying plans to retire 47 A380’s in the coming months and is in talks with the French aircraft manufacturer to reduce the remaining A380’s which were due to be delivered from its last order. Once that order is complete the A380 programme will be shuttered for good.
In the last few weeks, Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates declared “the A380 is over” and instead said the future belonged to smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. Air France shares the same vision, saying its A380’s will be replaced by both the 787 and A350.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.