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An Emirates A380 lands in London (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Emirates Phases Out Its First Airbus A380, Plans to Retire More

Emirates Airbus A380 A6-EDB, which joined the Emirates fleet on Oct. 24, 2008, six months after its first test flight, has been retired from the airline’s fleet. The aircraft, which hasn’t performed a revenue flight in four months, was spotted in an all-white livery at Dubai International Airport.

A6-EDB made its last commercial flight on Feb. 23 from Muscat International Airport in Muscat, Oman, to Dubai before being stored at Dubai World Central International Airport on Feb. 28.  The ill-fated superjumbo was brought back to Dubai International Airport after a month-long recess on March 25 and bid adieu to the skies after making its last flight over Dubai on May 28. It is one of the aircraft of the model wholly owned by Emirates, unlike others operated on long-term financial lease agreements with outside lessors

The double-decker has an uncertain future particularly during the current period, which has seen airlines have launched early retirements of their A380 aircraft due to operational costs and a slump in demand for air travel due to novel coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, it is highly likely that there will be no second-hand market for the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

Although Emirates is said to be considering to retire most of its A380 fleet because of impacts of the current industrial turmoil, it would be inaccurate to relate the removal of A6-EDB from the fleet to the pandemic. That is because Emirates, the world’s largest operator of A380, planned the retirement of a few of its double-deckers long before the current situation. The airline will also likely remove two of its aging A380s, registered as A6-EDA and A6-EDC, that are stored at Dubai International Airport.

“You’ll start seeing A380s coming out of our fleet for various reasons, and we’ve always said this,” said Emirates Airline President Tim Clark last year. “These are being dealt with on a tail-by-tail, month-by-month basis under a retirement [schedule] that is well planned already.”

“We are in the process of [starting A380 retirements],” he said at the time. “Two have been deactivated. They are under retirement because we’ve got a major overhaul coming up and it’s best to take the old aircraft out – they’re all written down – and take the gear off them rather than buy a $25 million main landing gear. I need two, possibly three, to meet that [overhaul] requirement.”

Emirates Look to Restructure Its Fleet

The world’s largest long-haul operator is looking to gradually phase out some of its A380 aircraft to replace them with Boeing 777X in the long term. The airline’s fleet made up entirely of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. After the retirement of A6-EDB, the airline has now 114 Airbus A380, and 155 Boeing 777 in its fleet in addition to eight A380 and 126 Boeing 777X aircraft pending delivery.

“We know the A380 is over, the 747 is over, but the [Airbus] A350 [XWB] and the [Boeing] 787 [Dreamliner] will always have a place. They may not be ordered soon, they may have orders deferred and pushed back, but eventually, they will come back, and they will be a better fit probably for global demand in the years post the pandemic,” the chief of the airline said.

Emirates had grounded all its A380 fleet in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the airline to lay off approximately 800 of its pilots, mainly those flying the A380. In a webinar hosted by Aviation Week magazine, Tim Clark said that the remaining A380s are flown once due to maintenance and repair issues, and pilots fly around the Arabian Gulf to avoid losing their license.

“At the moment, I’ve got 115 sitting there. We’ve always known that up until that point in time, in 2022, there are going to be a number that will have to go into long-term storage. We’re not getting rid of any of them apart from I think three that are coming out and nine 777s that were scheduled to come out this year,” Tim Clark said in an interview with Financial Times.

“The A380 has a place in the Emirates international network on the scale it had before. Albeit not today or fully next year, but the year after I think there will be a place for it and I think it is going to be extremely popular,” he added.

Meanwhile, the airline announced on Wednesday that there will be a premium economy cabin on their brand new A380 waiting in Toulouse, France, to be delivered. Even though the Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based airline planned to launch premium economy service in 2020, it appears that it will offer this new product to the passengers in 2021 at the earliest.

Although the airline was set to receive three of its pending A380 aircraft in March 2020, the delivery had to be deferred to 2021 because of the current financial crisis. It is speculated that Emirates is in talks with Airbus in a bid to cancel the remaining five superjumbo orders.

Bulent Imat
Bulent Imat
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