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Emirates Retires Its First A380
On Tuesday, Emirates officially retired its first A380 jumbo jet. The aircraft, registered as A6-EDB, has been in Emirates’ fleet for 12 years and completed its final flight on Oct. 27. While this retirement is not a direct causality of the COVID-19 pandemic, the once-reverenced “Eighth Wonder” is slowly withdrawing from the skies as airlines struggle to fill its seats to capacity.
A6-EDB’s History and Final Flight
A6-EDB was the thirteenth A380 built by Airbus and took its first flight in April 2008. It was delivered to Emirates on Oct. 24, 2008, and entered service three days later on Oct. 27, exactly 12 years ago to the day of writing. The reason for A6-EDB’s departure was not actually COVID-related but was planned due to required upcoming heavy maintenance. The jet made its last commercial flight on Feb. 23, 2020, carrying passengers from Muscat, Oman to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Considering that the aircraft was one of the first to enter Emirates’ A380 fleet, it makes sense that it is the first to leave. Rumors of the jet’s retirement began in mid-June when photos of A6-EDB painted all-white at Dubai International Airport surfaced on Twitter. The aircraft has been at the airport since March waiting to take off for its final flight. Per Flightradar24, A6-EDB took off from Dubai International Airport at 15:55 on Oct. 27 and landed at Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees Airport near Tarbes, France at 19:50 the same day.
The Future of the A380 at Emirates
While the coronavirus pandemic has left the viability of the A380 in limbo, Emirates is committed to keeping its fleet flying.
Earlier this year, CEO Tim Clark told The Times, “As demand returns, and given the slot availability at prime hubs, there will be a place for it. I’m hoping by April 2022, all our A380s will be flying again. The A380 has defined us.”
While it may be surprising to know that Emirates will hold onto its A380 fleet, it has its reasons. For one, Emirates is the largest operator of the A380 jumbo jet, with the carrier operating almost half of the world’s fleet. The airline operates 115 A380s, accounting for 43% of its wide-body aircraft. Meanwhile, the jet only accounted for 3% of Air France’s fleet before its retirement earlier this year. So, from a capacity standpoint, retiring the A380 at Emirates would be a much bigger sacrifice than it was, for example, for Air France.
Furthermore, the UAE is currently building a new airport south of Dubai, to be known as Dubai World Central. The airport is being built specifically to act as a hub for Emirates’ A380 fleet. However, as a result of the pandemic, it is currently serving as a temporary home for some of the company’s grounded jumbo jets.
Other Airlines Retiring the A380
While Emirates is nowhere close to retiring its entire fleet of A380s, some airlines have gotten rid of the jet altogether because it is simply too difficult to fill, especially during the pandemic. The aircraft was an early causality at Air France when it retired its entire fleet in June. Meanwhile, Lufthansa sent six of its 14 A380s to a Spanish graveyard in Teruel earlier this year, and Qantas announced that its A380 fleet would be grounded likely through 2022.
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