The Airbus A380 continues to be one of the aircraft types that is hit the hardest by the current crisis. With some 240 A380’s available, most have been grounded since late March. In recent days, many have been placed in storage until further notice.
Here is an update on our story.
Lufthansa announced on April 7 that it will retire six of its fourteen A380s permanently with immediate effect as the airline prepares for a smaller post-Covid operation.
It continued to operate the type according to schedule until March 28, when all A380s were parked in Frankfurt and Munich. Early April, three aircraft were active on special repatriation flights to Auckland via Bangkok, a destination not served by Lufthansa. On April 28, Lufthansa sent the first aircraft (AIMG) to Teruel airport in Spain for storage.
The Australian airline has parked all its A380s on March 30, after it announced a 90 percent reduction in international services in the previous week. It continued to operate to London via Darwin instead of Singapore in the past week as well as to Los Angeles and Dallas, but these were kind of repatriation flights.
Qantas has three in for maintenance: VH-OQD, for a tech check, OQG for a cabin makeover. OQI was sent to Dresden for a cabin make-over on the 23rd and did a 19 hours 16 minutes flight from Sydney, the longest ever by an A380. In January, Qantas did a similar long flight the other way round to capture valuable data for the Project Sunrise long-haul project. OQJ and OQF are in Los Angeles.
An April 5, Airinsight heard an unconfirmed rumor from a source within Qantas that the airline is studying a post-Covid scenario that includes a return to service of only half the A380 fleet. Only six of the aircraft would re-enter the schedule and only the ones with the updated cabin.
China Southern has become the most active A380 operator in April. From February until mid-March, all five aircraft were stored at Guangzhou as Covid-19 decimated air travel in China and Asia.
On March 19, B-6139 was the first to operate a service again from Guangzhou to Los Angeles and back. Since then it has brought all A380s back from storage. It has operated them to LA and Sydney but also on Guangzhou-Amsterdam, Guangzhou-London, London-Chengdu, and Guangzhou-Vancouver on April 28.
Before Covid, China Southern used to operate the A380s on some domestic routes (especially Beijing-Guangzhou) plus to Los Angeles, Sydney, and Melbourne. It had planned to start services this summer to London Heathrow.
China Southern had grounded all five A380s since February but resumed service to LA with B-6139 on March 19. (Richard Schuurman)
Emirates stopped all passenger services from March 25 but received government approval for a limited schedule from April 5. It was announced this would include on the Boeing 777-300ER, but on the 5th A380 A6-EOG was deployed to London Heathrow. She had been in storage at DXB.
The world’s biggest A380-operator with a fleet of 115 has continuously storing aircraft at Dubai World Central since April 2018. At the time, a drop in demand and seasonal effects were given as the reasons, but Emirates has continued to park A380s at DWC for on average four weeks since. Usually, it was two to three at a time, but since the last months of 2019 and the outbreak of Covid-19, in particular, the numbers have risen.
On March 25, Emirates had parked 72 A380s at Dubai World Central and 43 at DXB, some of them in regular maintenance.
At the Airbus factory in Hamburg, two brand-new A380s are waiting for their final test flights to begin until delivery in April or May, but it’s very likely that Emirates will defer deliveries until traffic goes up again.
Some Emirates A380 are parked at DXB.
Etihad has suspended all flights from March 25 for two weeks, resulting in the grounding of the entire fleet. It originally planned to swap A380s for smaller Boeing 787-9s and 777s from April 1 on its A380-routes to London, Paris, New York, and Sydney. The flight of A6-API from Sydney on March 24 was the last A380-service for the time being.
Qatar Airways has parked three A380s at Doha’s old international airport. APG arrived on March 19, APC on the 21st, and APE on the 23rd. API was in storage for a week too, but Qatar Airways kind of unexpectedly went on the offensive by saying it would operate the A380 extra to London, Frankfurt, and Perth. It also continues to operate to Sydney and Melbourne.
With passenger numbers as low as they are, it makes you wonder how Qatar can make good money out of its A380-services. Remember most countries have imposed strict immigration rules for non-nationals, so traveling has become very unattractive.
Korean Air has grounded all its A380s too. (Richard Schuurman)
Almost unnoticed, but Korean Air has grounded all of its ten A380s too. The last active service has been on March 7, but in the days before most aircraft returned to Seoul without operating new services. One A380 (HL-7615) seems to be out of service for some time and is likely in maintenance. During the last days, some A380s were visible on Flightradar24, which indicates they are prepared for a return to service.
Korean Air warned on March 9 that its existence depends on a quick end of the Covid-19 crisis, which stressed the severity of the impact it has on air travel to and from South Korea.
Asiana Airlines parked its fleet of six A380s at Seoul Incheon since March 10, having operated at limited capacity to Los Angeles and Frankfurt. On March 29/30, HL-7634 was back in Sydney.
Singapore Airlines has a fleet of 19 A380s, of which one (9V-SKN) is having a cabin make-over. SKP returned from a tech check on March 24.
In February and March, most aircraft have been in regular service to Europe, the US, Australia, and Japan until March 29, but on the 30th SKZ was the only A380 showing on radar on her way to London.
On April 26 Singapore flew SKT, SKW, SKY, and SKZ to Alice Springs in Australia for storage.
British Airways has one A380 (G-XLEG) in Manila for a tech check. Most of her sisters were still active on the network to Asia, North America, and South Africa until March 28. On April 6 and 7, BA ferried six A380s from Heathrow to Chateauroux in central France for storage. Three more followed on April 15/16.
After retiring F-HPJB in January, Air France has an A380-fleet of nine. The plan was to retire two of them this year as the airline starts phasing out the type from its fleet until 2022. This plan seemed to have been accelerated and Air France has parked a number of aircraft. On April 23, HPJC flew from Abu Shabi straight to Tarbes (France). On the 26th, HPJG and HPJF went to Teruel (Spain). HPJE flew to Tarbes on the 28th.
Malaysia Airlines has been parking its A380-fleet infrequently for a few years now, having discontinued services to London and Paris. The type occasionally showed up in Tokyo. Until March, the MAS A380s were frequent visitors to Medina to bring pilgrims to the holy places in Saudi Arabia, but pilgrimages have been suspended too as long as Covid-19 is not beaten. Two A380s (9M-MNA and MNE) are showing in storage for some time.
MND flew a repatriation flight to Cairo on April 18, while MNF was on a regular service to London on the 28th.
Thai has continued operating its six A380s for most of March but from April 1 has parked all aircraft. On April 1, HS-TUC operated the last service to and from Frankfurt. Unconfirmed reports say that Thai is considering phasing out the A380s early as it expects the type to be too big for its future needs.
HiFly’s only A380 has been used for two evacuation flights from Wuhan to Europe in February, but since March 5 she has been in Tarbes (France) at Tarmac-Aerosave. Most likely for a B-check. HiFly said on April 4 it will operate the A380 on repatriation flights during the month but hasn’t done so.
All Nippon Airways:
Despite the severe impact of Covid-19, ANA’s two A380s had been operating according to schedule to Hawaii. This changed by late March as Hawaii implemented a strict ban on international air travel. From March 25 ANA has suspended services to Honolulu until April 24. This keeps the two sea turtle-A380s parked for a month.
The third and final brand-new A380 for ANA has started its pre-delivery test program and was set to join the fleet in April, but reports from Japan say this has been postponed until October.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.