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An Emirates Airbus A380 on final approach. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

Emirates’ Airbus A380 Fleet Set to Return to the Skies in July


The iconic double-decker will take to the skies with flights to London and Paris starting from July 15 as announced by the airline on Tuesday. The airline, which has been forced to ground all superjumbos in its fleet due to the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, will operate the world’s biggest passenger aircraft for the first time in almost three months.

The announcement came as the company started to boost its flights, adding more destinations to its schedule including Auckland, Brussels, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City,  Barcelona, Washington, D.C. and Istanbul.

The Gulf carrier started to prove its commitment to the giant aircraft by starting flights, particularly to its primary areas of operation, with the type earlier than expected.  The airline might use more superjumbos in the coming days as it will resume flights to some of its focus cities including  Frankfurt, Zurich, Madrid, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, New York JFK, Toronto, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong.

If demand for air travel relatively recovers in holiday season and countries continue to ease flight restrictions, more superjumbos might take to the skies in the short term. Additionally, Dubai lifted travel restrictions and is preparing to welcome tourists from July 7, which might increase passenger volume and capacity of the airline and enable it to put more double-deckers into service. Having said that, passengers traveling to Dubai will be required to present a recent COVID-19 negative certificate or undergo testing at Dubai airports on arrival.

There have been rumors circulating that the Dubai-based airline, the world’s largest operator of the type, will accelerate the process of decommissioning its Airbus A380 superjumbo fleet. However, the company denied allegations stating that the airline plans to operate all superjumbos in its fleet by 2022.

Emirates’ commitment to the double-decker and its resumption of flights with the model can be regarded as a positive indication for the future of the airliner that fell from favor particularly during the current period, which has seen airlines begin early retirements of their A380 aircraft.

Following the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, the twin-decker has been grounded or phased out by most operators, including Air France that retired all A380s in its fleet and Lufthansa which is also speeding up its superjumbo retirements. Airlines parked or phased out their twin-decker fleets except those operated by China Southern Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and charter airline Hi Fly.

Emirates took delivery of six new Airbus A380s during the 2019-2020 fiscal year before the ongoing pandemic. As the largest operator of the model, the Dubai-based airline now has 114 superjumbos in its fleet after retiring one of its aging twin-decker a short time ago. The airline also has eight more of the four-engine airplanes pending delivery. With its brand new double-decker that will be delivered at the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, Emirates will introduce a premium economy cabin.

Emirates President Tim Clark has continually repeated that the four-engine aircraft plays an important role in the airline’s network and business plan, which is supported by the figures set out in the company’s 2019-2020 annual report. According to the fiscal year report, the airline carried 43% of its passengers and served 53 destinations, around 34% of the Emirates network, with its flagship aircraft. Tim Clark says that although currently falling from favor, in the coming years, Airbus A380s will be extremely popular again.

The airline has 56 Airbus A380s wholly owned by the company and 59 superjumbos leased from the lessors. It can be assumed that in the long-term, the airline will continue operating the twin-deckers wholly belonging to the company and will not renew leasing contracts for the remaining superjumbos, meaning it will operate around 60 double-deckers in the upcoming years. Emirates will be operating a mix of Airbus A380s, A350s, Boeing 777s and 777Xs, which will be the new flagship aircraft in its fleet.

The Airbus A380 as of June 23

Operator Grounded Operating
Air France 9 0*
All Nippon Airways 2 0
Asiana Airlines 6 0
British Airways 12 0
China Southern 0 5
Emirates 114 0**
Etihad Airways 10 0
Korean Air 10 0
Lufthansa 14 0
Malaysia Airlines 6 0
Qantas 12 0
Qatar Airways 10 0
Singapore Airlines 19 0
Thai Airways 6 0
Hi Fly 0 1
Total 228 8

*Air France retired its A380 fleet.

**Emirates is yet to start  flights with the A380

Bulent Imat
Bulent Imat
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