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How the Airbus A380 Superjumbo is Recovering Post-Pandemic
Since its first flight in 2005, the global Airbus A380 fleet has flown millions of miles across the globe, becoming an instantly recognizable aircraft to all. Designed to lower operating costs and increase fuel savings compared to the Boeing 747, the largest commercial aircraft in the world did just that and found a home with carriers across the globe.
Currently, Emirates operates the largest fleet, with a margin of over 100 more of the type than the next closest operator, Singapore Airlines. However, during the pandemic, the A380 showed how vulnerable a superjumbo jet is in the world with all operators of the flight parking most or all of their fleet.
When the Pandemic took full effect in 2020, the aviation industry saw an unprecedented decline in travel demand across the globe. Most airlines parked aircraft or operated them on an extremely reduced frequency. The most fuel-efficient aircraft were the ones to stay in service, operating flights with low load factors or cargo-only flights. This in turn saw airlines rapidly taking out less efficient, four-engine aircraft, parking them, and in some cases, retiring fleets altogether. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, for instance, retired both of their 747 fleets. The A380 was not immune to this effect either.
According to Aviation Values (AV), in 2020, 214 A380s across the globe went into inactive service, meaning parked or stored. In the first quarter of the year alone, 177 out of the 214 aircraft were stored. The vulnerability of the four-engine aircraft was seen immediately in a drastic fashion.
Three years later, the beloved superjumbo has made its return, but not to the level of prominence it once had. Currently, according to AV, 45% of the world’s fleet is still parked or in long-term storage. According to airfleets.net, Emirates has 23 aircraft still in storage, parked or scrapped but also operating the most worldwide with 100 examples currently active. Korean Air has half of its fleet stored or parked, Etihad is operating one out of the carrier’s nine examples and Thai Airways has all six of its A380s in storage.
Up until recently, Lufthansa had its entire fleet parked. However, the carrier has returned three to service, relaunching the aircraft to Boston on June 1. This reactivation shows promise for the aircraft, as the industry is continuing to see an incline in travel.
Another example is Etihad which currently has only one of the super jumbos active. The carrier announced that the A380 would make its debut back into service in July of this year, and two additional examples will be re-activated to operate from Abu Dhabi to London.
While other carriers are just now reintroducing the A380 back into service, Emirates returned the type to service in July 2020. Being the driving force in the market for the double-decker jet, Emirates’ hub and spoke route structure is what allows the A380 to continually serve the market. Having a singular super hub in Dubai, the A380 can operationally thrive as that was the intended use of its design.
Future of the A380
With operating significantly more of the type than the next closest competitor, Emirates is the driving factor for the value and long-term outlook of the aircraft. According to AV, the carrier’s current market value of the fleet is $6.3 billion. In 2022, the airline purchased one 13-year-old A380 upon the lease expiring for $29.99 million. AV valued the aircraft at $26.45 million, meaning Emirates paid more for the aircraft than what AV’s algorithm believed it was worth.
This is promising for the type’s future as the purchase denotes there is still significant use for the double-decker aircraft in Emirates’ business model. The carrier has made it public that the aircraft will operate into the 2030s, showing promise for the type’s future.
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