The news today that Hifly has its first A380 on the way and is eyeing a second fits with the conversation we had with the airline’s CEO late last year.
On the call, you will note he expresses an interest in acquiring up to six.
The first (and probably second) aircraft comes from Singapore Airlines. Which means it was well cared for during its first phase of use. Hifly likely has little it has to do to get the aircraft into service. Indeed the airline seems to be keeping the configuration the same as used by Singapore. That makes it a very comfortable 471 seats compared to what has been expected to be a far higher density. Why would Hifly keep the 471 seats? The cost of reconfiguring an A380 will run into millions of dollars. Better to get the aircraft earning as quickly as possible and then worry about reconfiguring it later.
We understand Hifly already has a customer for this first aircraft. The impact of bringing the A380 into the market at deeply discounted rates is expected to be significant. A large people mover like the A380 leaves no market it enters quite the same. Emirates has proved this time and again. Having access to a lower cost, on-demand, A380 provides any airline an opportunity try it out, with a smidgen of risk. This thinking is what Dr. Mipuri said on the call with us. We think he’s right. We also know that this is the hope within Airbus. The thinking is that once an airline has tried it out, and discovers the A380 is not as scary as it first appears, that airline might be more likely to evaluate the aircraft as a fixture in its fleet plans.
It’s not only Hifly and Airbus that are hoping this happens. Even Emirates wants this to happen. Emirates built its global reach on the A380 – all its smaller aircraft are used for route development with a view to moving the A380 into any market.
The Hifly bet on the A380 is not without risk. But as a well established ACMI provider, they know where the customers are. We believe the CEO when he says their plans are well thought through. We also think Hifly has derisked this decision as much as they can. Now we wait to see just how disruptive their A380 can be.