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A China Southern Airbus A380 on approach into Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

China Southern to Retire Airbus A380 Fleet

Earlier today, China Southern Airlines sent the first two airframes of its Airbus A380 fleet to Victorville, Calif., then heading for the Mojave Desert, a small slice of which serves as a notorious aircraft graveyard. Asia’s largest airline officially kicked off the process of retiring its A380 fleet. By the end of 2022, all five China Southern A380s will be retired.

Flight CZ5067 was operated by the airline’s first Airbus A380. The aircraft, registered B-6136, took off at 12:10 p.m. from Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport. A moment later, the second A380 received by China Southern, B-6137 left the airport one final time.

China Southern is the only carrier in the nation operating the super jet. After receiving the first of five orders in 2011, the Guangzhou-based carrier took its Airbus A380 to many metropolises around the world, operating regularly to Beijing, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and other cities.

The super jet was once a financial nightmare for China Southern, as the operating cost for A380 was extremely high, and China Southern never could find a sufficiently profitable route to gain a margin with the aircraft.

Disappointed Community

The Chinese aviation community was disappointed with the retirement of the legendary jet from the Chinese carrier. A large group of avgeeks was at Baiyun Airport to bid farewell B-6136 and B-6137 at the very same spot where they greeted those two from Toulouse, France, when the legendary jets first made China their home.

China Southern did not publicize any news related to the retirement of the Airbus A380. According to an online aviation outlet in China, the airline decided not to hold any ceremony for the retiring fleet.

After the pandemic, many operators of the Airbus A380 decided to retire their superjumbo jet fleet, as the demand for travel plummeted worldwide. China Southern, on the other hand, made a fortune with their A380s due to the restrictions imposed by the Chinese Authorities to only keep one flight from one country each week. The ability to utilize the huge capacity of the A380 to operate that single flight proved to be a significant advantage for the carrier. However, as the restrictions slightly loosened, and traveling demand trended down as the pandemic dragged on, China Southern finally made up its mind to move away from the jet.

Convoluted Journey

China Southern was the only airline to operate Airbus A380 on domestic flights. On the busy route between Beijing and Guangzhou, the A380 was a frequent player. China Southern’s A380, along with the flagship of Air China, the Boeing 747-8, operated the first flight out of the brand-new Beijing Daxing International Airport. The airport is now the second-largest hub of China Southern, right after its Guangzhou headquarters.

At the beginning of the Airbus A380 era of China Southern, the carrier was trying to use the aircraft to serve the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. However, as the delivery of the A380 was delayed several times, the aircraft not only missed the Beijing Olympics, it also missed the 2010 Asia Olympic Games hosted in China Southern’s home city of Guangzhou. As a result, China Southern extended its hand to Air China, hoping to exchange some international flights out of Beijing. The endeavor was not successful.

China Southern then started to put the super jet on domestic flights, then slowly onto international routes to Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Sydney. Unfortunately, just as the A380 started to turn a profit for China Southern, the pandemic swept the globe. Now, after struggling for over two years, losing over $20bn, China Southern will no longer be an operator for the legendary Airbus A380.

The decision to not celebrate and give its A380s a proper goodbye was not well received in the Chinese avgeek community. A lot of A380 fans are gathering online, sharing their precious memories with A380. The aircraft was greatly loved by passengers, and it will be missed by the community that flew it.

Author

  • Lei is from Inner Mongolia, China, and now lives in Guangzhou. He grew up in an aviation family, where his passion began. During his time at Penn State University, he studied Industrial Engineering specializing in operations research, and he graduated with an honor’s thesis on airport gate assignment optimization. Now, he is a Purchasing Manager with Procter & Gamble. In his free time, he enjoys flying, reading, and wandering around the city.

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