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Hi Fly’s Airbus A380 at the Farnborough Air Show. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

Hi Fly Announces Intention to Retire Airbus A380

Hi Fly, the Portuguese charter carrier, has announced its intentions to retire its sole Airbus A380 aircraft by the end of the 2020 calendar year.

The carrier has operated the aircraft since July 4, 2018 on a lease from Doric Aviation. The airline has decided to not renew its lease, which expires at year ending, closing a two-and-a-half-year chapter in the airline’s history books.

The airline cites the change in industry demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason that it has chosen to not continue operating the Super Jumbo aircraft. While Hi Fly’s A380 was utilized for some evacuation flights early on during the pandemic, it has been operating under a different role lately.

Dedicated COVID Cargo Carrier

Since early charter flights, the A380 has since been converted into a cargo aircraft to assist in the need for extra cargo transportation since the start of the pandemic. In doing so, Hi Fly became the first airline to operate a dedicated cargo version, as there was no actual cargo version of the A380 offered to airlines. 

Following its conversion to handle cargo, Hi Fly operated the aircraft on an around-the-world flight in order to move medical supplies and PPE to the Dominican Republic. The flight operated from Beja, Portugal to Tianjin, China to pick up medical supplies and continued on to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. From there, it continued back to Beja to complete the full circumnavigation of the globe. 

Second Hand A380 Operations

Hi Fly was the first and only airline to dedicate an Airbus A380 to charter operations and was also the first second-hand operator of the world’s largest passenger aircraft. The specific aircraft that Hi Fly operated was registered 9H-MIP, which was originally delivered to Singapore Airlines in March 2008.  

Before the dip in air travel demand, the Hi Fly A380, featuring the special “Save the Reefs” livery, could often be seen filing in for airlines needing extra lift due to grounded aircraft. The aircraft was utilized on rescue flights after the collapse of Thomas Cook Airlines and was often used to replace grounded Norwegian Long Haul Boeing 787s on flights to New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport.

While in passenger configuration, the aircraft was laid out in a three-class, 471-seat configuration. The aircraft featured 12 first class seats, 60 business class seats and 399 economy seats. The airline had kept much of Singapore Airlines’ interior, including economy seats, allowing for a comfortable 32 inches of seat pitch for passengers.

Hi Fly is one of just 15 airlines with the distinction of operating the Airbus A380, an exclusive list featuring airlines such as Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Qantas. While not a direct replacement, the airline stated the A380 would be replaced by Airbus A330 aircraft in the future, following a shift towards the need for smaller aircraft to meet lower demand.

Jace Moseley
Jace Moseley
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