Early retirement: Your chances of flying an A380 are getting slimmer

Nov 25, 2019

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The massive A380 jumbo jet, largest passenger plane in the world and beloved aircraft of shower enthusiasts everywhere, is slowly losing its place in airspace. Unfortunately for fans of the double-decker aircraft, Air France has chosen to retire its very first A380, tail number F-HPJB, after completing a flight from Johannesburg.

Thus begins the retirement of Air France’s fleet of 10 A380 aircraft. The plan is to retire all 10 by 2022, marking the end of a short-lived run begun in just 2009. Several airlines have struggled to make the oversized aircraft profitable, and Air France is one of them.

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Image courtesy of Air France.
(Image courtesy of Air France)

As sad as it is, it makes sense that Air France is giving up the plane just 13 years after taking possession of its first A380. The plane requires excessive effort — from special boarding to increased fuel costs, it’s simply not viable for the company to continue operating.

This is in stark contrast to Emirates, whose CEO Tim Clark broke down exactly why Air France has failed to find a foothold with the A380:

The A380 was a misfit for Air France. They never scaled . . . Yes, we faced the same teething problems, but we dealt with them because we were scaled enough to deal with it. If you’ve got a sub fleet of 10 it’s a bloody nightmare and the costs go through the roof . . . Secondly, look at their interior. What did they actually do to shock and awe their market community with that A380 when it came to market? Why was it that it was Emirates, who took it after Singapore Airlines, that it lit up the planet in terms of showers and bars and big TV screens? We did it for a very well calculated reason. Not to blow our trumpet. But simply we had taken a huge risk and huge investment. To belittle that investment by putting in a Business Class seat of 1990s-think and a First Class of 1980s-think and Economy Class seating and IFE of 1990s-think was not something we would have done, like Air France. The whole approach to the A380 at Air France and Lufthansa was ‘just more of the same.’”

While Clark is right, it’s still sad to see the end of an era that never really began. If you’re wanting to board one of Air France’s A380’s, do it before 2022.

Feature photo courtesy of Air France.

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