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An Air France A380 at Washington Dulles (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ben Suskind)

Air France Will Bid Farewell to Its A380s on Friday

Hit hard by the collapse of air traffic due to ongoing pandemic, Air France abruptly had to retire its entire A380 fleet in May. The aircraft will take to the skies for the last time with the Air France livery on Friday, eleven years after it entered service at the company.

All A380 pilots working for the flag carrier airline of France will be onboard a farewell flight set to take place on Friday. The farewell flight will be operated with its 8-year-old aircraft registered F-HPJH that made its last commercial flight from Miami to Paris on March 22 before the novel coronavirus outbreak. It joined Air France’s fleet in May 2012 with a flight between Paris and New York.

Air France will pay tribute to the Airbus A380 with a two-hour flight over France. The iconic aircraft will take off from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in the afternoon at 15:30 local time. In addition to the 200 pilots, specially-selected guests, some members of the executive team, all mechanics and ground personnel of the company directly related to the double-decker as well as company employees who were selected with a draw will be onboard to bid adieu to the superjumbo jet.

Air France Will Replace A380s with A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners

The twin-decker fell from favor following the coronavirus crisis that shuttered air traffic. Air France abruptly decided to phase out its 9 aircraft on May 20, to replace them with new generation aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The Air France-KLM Board of Directors made several strategic decisions concerning the development of the company’s fleet following a meeting last year. The aviation giant decided to simplify its fleet and restructure it with more modern, high-performance aircraft with a significantly reduced environmental footprint.

The company has placed a firm order for 60 A220-300s, with 30 options and 30 acquisition rights, which will gradually replace its A318 and A319 fleet. The airline initially planned the retirement of 10 A380s from the Air France fleet by 2022, the phase out of three additional aircraft having been decided previously.

“They follow the recent orders for A350s and Boeing 787s that Air France and KLM have placed,” said Benjamin Smith, CEO of the Air France-KLM Group.

According to the company announcement made long before the novel coronavirus pandemic, the current competitive environment limits the markets in which the A380 can profitably operate.

The airline did not want to keep the superjumbo in its fleet due to significant costs. Air France sets out that increasing aircraft maintenance costs, as well as necessary cabin refurbishments to meet customer expectations reduce the economic attractiveness of Air France’s A380s even further.

Additionally, the airline also aspired to retire the fleet due to environmental concerns. “With four engines, the A380 consumes 20-25% more fuel per seat than new generation long-haul aircraft, and therefore emits more CO2,” said the airline.

The Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, announced in early June a plan of massive support for the aeronautical industry for more than 15 billion euros, which Air France will also benefit if the company meets the requirements to receive the cash flow. The airline has to restructure its fleet with state-of-the-art aircraft that are more environmentally- friendly.

“The French and European aviation industry plays a central role in the decarbonization of global air traffic, “said The Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, seeking to maintain the commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2050.

The goal of the state’s plan is to achieve a carbon-neutral aircraft by 2035 instead of 2050, in particular thanks to engines with a very high dilution rate and the use of hydrogen.

The Airbus A380, an iconic aircraft which is one of most popular aircraft among passengers, has been the victim of increasing costs and environmental concerns. The coronavirus pandemic dealt a death blow the iconic aircraft.

Airbus suspended the A380 program earlier in 2019 as it registered zero orders for the aircraft.

This story was updated on Wednesday, June 24 at 11:49 p.m. ET to correct the date for when Air France A380s began service. 

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