During the peak of COVID-19, airlines quickly retired their 4-engine aircraft, or put them into long-term storage without much chance to return. The demise of the A380s started even before that, with Airbus announcing the end of deliveries in 2019 (scheduled for 2021). Some airlines already started taking the superjumbos out of service, which was then accelerated by the pandemic.
However, as airports remain congested and slot-restricted, airlines started to reconsider their stance on larger aircraft. That left many airlines reactivating their Airbus A380s. In this article, we take a look at which routes will see A380 flights this winter schedule and follow up on what changed since March.
If you’re not into the A380 (why?) or you also love the other double-deck airplane, we also did a post about the 747 back in September.
Table of contents
As some airlines like Lufthansa and Etihad are in the phase of reactivating their A380s, we expect several changes to this network. Hence, we will update this article regularly. It’s also possible that some airlines will adjust their service and remove the A380s from some of these routes.
The British flag carrier reactivated all 12 of its Airbus A380s and put them on key routes with a focus on North America, in addition to flights to Dubai and Johannesburg. Their A380 strategy hasn’t changed significantly since March.
A380 rotations between London and Chicago will only run between November and December 2023.
New & Disappearing routes
New: Los Angeles
Gone: Boston and Washington D.C.
If there is one airline that went all in on the superjumbos is Emirates. They found a great use for the giant aircraft which kept the program alive for many years. They have almost 90 aircraft in active service (with approximately 30 parked), making it (still) the largest A380 operator.
The flights between Dubai and Washington D.C. will only see an A380 until November 2023.
New & Disappearing routes
New: Dubai-Denpasar (Bali)
Gone: Dubai-Nice & Milan-New York
Fifth freedom flights
While the Milan-New York route no longer features the A380, the airline still operates the following fifth freedom routes on the superjumbo:
At the time of writing, you can still grab well-priced first class tickets for the flights between Bangkok and Hong Kong:
A private bedroom residence on a plane? Look no further, than Etihad. While there were concerns during the pandemic that we may lose this unparalleled product, the airline decided to reactivate its superjumbos. While we expected Etihad to add further A380 destinations, the Emirati carrier kept London as its sole double-decker route.
The livery of the Korean SkyTeam member is definitely eye-catching. The logo is very often compared to a soft drink with very similar characteristics. When it comes to their fleet, they don’t limit themselves to the 747 in the four-engine category but have a few A380s in their arsenal too. They have ten, but still half of them are in storage. But retirement is on the books: in a 2021 FlightGlobal interview, the airline’s CEO gave them five years at max.
When it comes to developments, the New York route is only scheduled to have the A380 until January 2024 and Taipei disappeared since last season.
After Lufthansa’s announcement of the A380s’ return, the airline started flying them to Boston and New York from Munich. While the big jets will continue to fly only two (different) routes during the winter, the airline already scheduled superjumbos on several routes in the summer schedule. The airline also confirmed its plans to keep these planes this decade, even installing its new business class product.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
ANA is probably the odd one out of all A380 operators. It’s the type’s newest operator with fresh planes. The three A380s fly exclusively to Hawaii and are in the best A380 liveries (editor’s subjective opinion), especially since HiFly’s beautiful jets are gone.
While the smaller Korean airline is awaiting its merger with Korean Air, it reactivated a few of its six A380s. However, they will share the same fate as their new owner’s superjumbos: be retired by 2026.
Temporary A380 Flights
The following flights will only run in a temporary period:
- Seoul – Bangkok: October – December 2023
- Seoul – Frankfurt: November 2023 only
- Seoul – Sydney: October 2023 – February 2024
During the pandemic, it wasn’t obvious that Qantas would keep its superjumbos. However as Australia battles with high travel demand, but low supply, it was only natural that the airline brought its giants back. As per writing, the Australian carrier reactivated 7 of its A380s.
The Hong Kong route will only see A380s until February 2024. The airline is introducing a new Melbourne-Los Angeles A380 service.
If there was one very unhappy customer for the A380, it would be Qatar Airways – according to a Simple Flying interview last year (coincidentally the same time when the airline was in a battle with Airbus). Regardless of that, we can say that the superjumbo was mostly used for eco-heavy or cargo-heavy markets or for those that need a first class cabin onboard. This strategy hasn’t changed much since the airline reactivated the A380s.
From the same article, it looked like the airline will ground its A380s the moment 787 delivery delays stop and the Airbus peace takes effect, restarting A350 deliveries. While the A350s (and a few Dreamliners) started arriving again, the airline still operates the giants and the A330s. It even added another A380 to its Paris route.
Singapore Airlines – while downsized – didn’t retire its A380s, which means that you can enjoy this pretty good product for a while and on many routes. Unfortunately, we have to wait until the summer schedule to have the A380s back on the Singapore – Frankfurt – New York route. The airline will now also fly the double-deckers to Auckland and Tokyo.
The following routes will only see A380 service during a limited period of the winter schedule:
- Singapore – Auckland: November 2023 – March 2024
- Singapore – Melbourne: October – November 2023
- Singapore – Shanghai: January – February 2024
Unfortunately, that seems to be it. China Southern’s planes sit in Mojave with a US owner and Malaysian A380s, withdrawn from use take an extended sun bath in Southern France – and are not done getting tanned. While we were semi-optimistic regarding Thai Airways, the airline has since put these planes on auction.
However, a weird phenomenon called Global Airlines appeared. The “airline” apparently purchased four A380s including the ex-HiFly plane. However, their pitch deck (found and analysed by Paxex.aero) and subsequent (reportedly) interesting press conference, raise many questions and doubts. While they have just partnered with HiFly, it’s not guaranteed that the airline will take off even after their 2024 promise.
During the pandemic, airlines retired the bigger planes one after the other. While many airlines said that they are gone for long, many of them did give the planes a second chance. As capacity once again becomes the issue, airlines have to face a value proposition: is it worth paying the high maintenance fees and higher flying costs to fight capacity issues? Most of the previous operators thought so.
All in all, there are plenty of chances to fly the A380s in the winter schedule. However, the future doesn’t look as bright. These planes are fairly old and operating them isn’t cheap. But only time will tell how long the Boeing 787 and 777X delivery delays will last. Deliveries from both giants will fasten up once and then the first thing to cross out will be these – subjectively – beautiful behemoths.
Cover Picture: © Miklós Budai 2022