Which airlines still use the A380?

The A380 was a superlative aircraft at the time of its launch, but it was not as successful as expected and it is with a certain sadness that aviation fans have taken note of the end of the program. In addition, the COVID precipitated the early retirement of a large part of the fleet, making it appear that it would be very difficult to fly again on the giant of the air.

But with the surprising recovery of the traffic, the airlines had to review their plans and, if it should disappear in the end, it is still possible to fly the A380 on some airlines.

A brief history of the A380

Launched in 2007 with Singapore Airlines as the launch airline, the A380 was intended to be the successor to another legendary aircraft, the Boeing 747, and embodied Airbus’ belief that the market needed very large aircraft. With its two decks it could embark up to 853 passengers but the airlines used it in more conventional configurations of about 500 passengers.

However, the A380 was a commercial failure. There are many reasons for the failure of the A380: it only suited the business model of certain airlines, the evolution of the ETOPS standard made four-engine aircraft obsolete, and airport saturation was not as fast as expected… For some the aircraft arrived too late, for others it arrived too early, but one thing is certain: it did not arrive at the right time and never met its market.

Initially, Airbus estimated the size of the market at 2,046 aircraft over 20 years. Then 1300 in 2007. Then 700 in 2012. In fact, only 251 A380s will be sold and the program end was decided in 2019 with a final delivery in 2021.

This still suggested a good career for the units already delivered, but the COVID came along. Too big, too fuel-intensive, quadjets were the first to be definitively withdrawn from the fleets. B747s, A340s and A380s have been promised early retirement.

But not everything went according to plan: with a resumption of traffic that surprised even the most optimistic, and aircraft that were supposed to replace the A380s not being delivered for years, some of the A380s were taken out of the parking lots where they were supposed to end their days before being scrapped.

It is still possible to fly on the giant of the air and we will explain where.

Air France

The French airline ordered 10 aircrafts and was one of the first to announce its decision to permanently stop operating the 380.

ANA (All Nippon Airways)

The Japanese airline has ordered 3 A380s, all dedicated exclusively to the Tokyo Narita-Honolulu route. The last one was delivered in the middle of a pandemic and directly stored. It has never flown since.

The two others resumed their activity towards Hawaii in May 2022.

ANA was noticed by adopting special liveries for each of its 3 A380s.

Asiana Airlines

The Korean airline has ordered 6 A380s. Today it operates only 4 of them.

British Airways

The British airline has ordered 12 A380s and all are in operation today.

China Southern Airlines

The Chinese airline which ordered 5 A380s has withdrawn them all from its fleet.

Emirates

The Dubai-based airline is the A380’s biggest customer, with 123 aircrafts orders. Today it operates 95 of them, 7 are parked (quick return to service possible) and 21 are stored or scrapped for fleet renewal purposes, not for lack of economic efficiency.

Etihad Airways

The Abu Dhabi airline has ordered 10 A380s. Today the 10 are stored or scrapped, 4 of them are to be put back into service to London for the summer of 2023.

Korean Air

The other Korean airline has ordered 10 A380s. Today it operates 5 of them and the other 5 are stored and the retirement of the A380 is planned by 2026. At this stage it is not known whether the acquisition of Asiana will have an impact on the fleet composition of the two airlines.

Lufthansa

The German airline has ordered 14 A380s. Initially it planned to withdraw all of them from service, but due to the resumption of traffic, it backed off. A first aircraft has just been put back into service and the 13 others are stored. Six of them have been sold back to Airbus and an unknown number of aircraft will be returned to service in the summer of 2023, for an undetermined period of time, but certainly the time needed to receive the 777X.

Malaysia Airlines

The Malaysian airline has ordered 6 A380s. Stored since the beginning of the pandemic, they have just been definitively withdrawn from the fleet between November and December 2022 and returned to Airbus in France.

Qantas

The Australian airline has ordered 12 A380s. 8 aircraft are currently in service and 2 are being scrapped.

Qatar Airways

The Qatari airline has ordered 10 A380s. 8 are in service today and two are in storage. The A380s are used in particular to make up for the downtime of the A350s.

Singapore Airlines

The Singapore airline has ordered 24 A380s. 12 are currently in service and 11 of which 7 have already been or will be dismantled are stored. One aircraft was returned to HiFly Malta in 2018 for charter operation.

If Singapore Airlines continues to invest in the A380 with a cabin retrofit, we won’t see it in Europe for a long time: given the demand, they are for the moment assigned primarily to Asian routes and to Australia.

Thai Airways

The Thai airline has ordered 6 A380s. Today they are all stored and there is no reason to believe that they will ever fly again.

Bottom line

The A380 is resisting against all odds and while it was thought that the COVID would push it towards an early retirement it continues to be used by most of its customer airlines. Only Air France, China Southern, Malaysia Airlines and maybe Thai have indeed drawn a definitive line on it.

In the meantime you can still fly on the A380s of Asiana, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Korean, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar and Singapore Airlines.

While waiting to find a successor? According to Emirates, the A380 arrived too early and the Gulf airline is interested in a successor. But if it is alone…

Image : A380 Emiratesby ZGPhotography via Shuttertock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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