The Airbus A380 was once acclaimed by aviation fans and aviation experts. Superlatives like “Giant of the Skies”, “Superjumbo” or “Wundervogel” alternated. No wonder, after all, the A380 is a record jet. With space for up to 853 passengers, it is the largest and, for the occupants, the quietest aircraft in the world. So quiet that the pilots now heard the noises of the passengers instead of the constant hum of the engines and therefore slept poorly.
But that was not the reason why, until recently, the end of the A380 – only 16 years after the first flight – seemed sealed. In the 2020 corona year there were only 25,000 scheduled flights with this machine type. In 2019 there were still over 119,000. Means: The A380 was hit harder than average by the corona-related aviation crisis because of its size and inefficiency.
Industry giants such as Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker reckoned with the Airbus type in the summer. “The purchase of the A380 was the biggest mistake we have ever made,” he grumbled in an interview and explained: “We grounded the A380 because it is a very fuel-efficient aircraft.” A comeback? Seemed impossible. And yet a few months later everything is different again.
First mothballed, then revived
Since vaccination rates have increased worldwide and people who have been vaccinated have been given back more and more freedom to travel, the number of bookings for air travel has skyrocketed. That could also be observed at Zurich-Kloten Airport: During the autumn break and at the beginning of November – with the opening of the USA – there was sometimes chaos and long queues in the check-in halls.
And what do the airlines have to do when demand increases? Increase capacities. Suddenly the A380 comes in handy. Good example: British Airways. Four of the twelve A380s owned by British Airways have been back in service since November. The British are currently even using the giant on short routes such as London to Frankfurt. First you have to train the crews again to be able to send them to Los Angeles, Miami and Dubai in the winter.
Singapore Airlines has also taken several A380s out of the hangar. Since last week there have been three daily flights with the giant again. “The A380, of which we will operate twelve with the latest cabin in the future, remains a very important part of our fleet,” said Singapore deputy chief Lee Lik Hsin to the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”.
Even in Qatar people are thinking back
Further evidence of the A380 comeback is the surprising U-turn at Qatar Airways. Five of the desert airline’s ten superjets have been back in service since November – despite the boss’ scolding in the summer. The reason: Qatar is experiencing a shortage of aircraft due to a problem with the A350. “Unfortunately we have no alternative but to fly the A380 again,” Al Baker had to admit.
Only Lufthansa remains stubborn. The A380s remain mothballed there. Meanwhile, Emirates will receive the last two superjumbos ever built in November and December. “This is a very powerful aircraft and we will use it well into the 2030s,” says Emirates CEO Tim Clark. More than 50 machines are to serve 27 destinations again by the end of the year – almost as many as before the pandemic.
Because of Storm Dennis: Airbus A380 makes a horror landing(00:49)