High up in the Aragon mountains in Spain, close to the town of Teruel sits an airport that became the longterm home of more than 100 commercial airlines, which were surplus to requirements as travel demand waned during the pandemic.
On Friday, another of those aircraft finally left Tarmac Aerosave, a specialist aircraft storage, maintenance and recycling firm, for its return to commercial service for the first time since May 2020.
On this occasion, it was the turn of a Lufthansa Airbus A380 to once again take to the skies as part of preparations for the German flag carrier to return its superjumbos to service by March 2023.
The eight-year-old A380 superjumbo took off from Teruel Airport at 4:05 pm on Friday, bound for Frankfurt, where it will go into Lufthansa’s maintenance base for further preparation work.
Briefly becoming the most tracked flight on Flight Radar, the aircraft was flown at a lower altitude and a slower speed than usual. This was because the landing gears had to remain down for the duration of the flight because it wasn’t possible to perform a swing test on them at Teruel.
Photos shared on Twitter by aviation reporter Andreas Spaeth showed the inside of the double-deck aircraft with seats tightly wrapped in thick plastic to keep soft furnishings from going mouldy while it was in storage for so long.
The 146th A380 ever to be made, aircraft D-AIMK is one of eight superjumbos that remain in Lufthansa’s fleet. The very future remained in doubt after the carrier sold six of its A380s and seriously considered the remaining eight.
But in June, Lufthansa finally revealed that the A380 would, in fact, be returning to service due to the surge in travel demand that followed the easing of pandemic restrictions. That demand doesn’t yet show any sign of abating despite an inflationary cloud hanging over Europe.
In reality, Lufthansa would probably rather not reactivate the quad-engine gas guzzlers, but with the Boeing 777X programme still impacted by rolling delays, Lufthansa and other launch customers have had to think of ways to boost capacity.
Earlier this week, it was also revealed that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways had restarted crew training for the A380, indicating that yet another superjumbo owner is about to return its fleet to service.
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.