While I love the A380s, given they are marvellous machines and I’ve had some of my best flights on them, most airlines haven’t taken on to them as well. Just this year, I’ve flown the A380s of Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa and Etihad, and Emirates in the past, and I have had such lovely flights in all of the cabins.
However, as I mentioned above, some airlines haven’t taken so kindly to the plane because they find it hard to fill a plane of 500 people approximately. Thus, the economics does not work out, except at a slot constrained airport where the more people you can bring on one plane, the better. Last year, we were on tenterhooks to know what Singapore Airlines was going to do with their 5 A380s. They determined they only had space for 20 in their fleet, and they had 25. They started to return the remaining 5. Eventually, one found a new home in HiFly, the wet-lease operator, and four are stored at the moment.
Now, it turns out that Air France may also be on the verge of cutting down their A380 fleet. Air France had a lot of industrial action earlier this year, the consequence of which was the CEO stepping down. A new CEO came in, Benjamin Smith, from Air Canada, and one of the first things he did was to take stock of the fleet.
Air France has 10 A380s in their fleet at the moment. And now that a fleet review has happened, the airline has determined that the A380 is not a plane suitable for their fleet. As a result, Air France will start to return between 3 to 5 of these aircraft to the lessors at the end of the contract period next year.
Air France determined that their network did not work the way the A380 did, which is a phenomenon noticed elsewhere too. Passengers would like more frequencies to choose from, and here, they’d have to club more flights to get the A380 to work.
The other thing that did not work for the A380 in the Air France fleet is the economics. Air France determined that to fly a couple of A380s, you need 40 pilots, usually higher up in the seniority ladder. And Air France’s pay scales depend on the aircraft’s weight, amongst other things. So, theoretically, flying a 300-ton 777 would cost way less than operating a 500-ton A380.
It is unfortunate that one more airline decides against this marvellous plane. I still wonder when I fly the A380 about how does this massive thing fly.
There is one airline which has a solid business case for the A380s; it is Emirates. They have enough of them to be able to operate a full-blown fleet of those aircraft. Perhaps it is an idea for them to take over all the unwanted A380s and consolidate them into their fleet. I’m sure they will be able to get these at a bargain price.
What are your thoughts about Air France deciding against keeping their A380s?