Air France Might Not Update Airbus A380 Cabins, Hints at Early Retirement

Jun 24, 2019

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Air France/KLM CEO Ben Smith cast doubt on whether its fleet of Airbus A380s will ever receive the airline’s new onboard product, according to an interview with Air Transport WorldWith Air France not entirely committed to upgrading its A380s, there is now speculation that Air France’s Airbus A380s might be retired sooner than originally thought.

2019 has not been a great year for fans of the A380. In February, Airbus officially announced that production of the Airbus A380 would end in 2021. Additionally, the first Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s entered the scrapyard and other airlines began sharing their own plans to retire the Airbus A380.

Air France had previously confirmed that five of the airline’s 10 Airbus A380s were slated to exit its fleet beginning later this year. There are conflicting reports on exactly how many A380s will exit the fleet, with some sources reporting that Air France will only retire three of its oldest super jumbos. As part of its A380 strategy, Air France originally planned to retrofit seven of its 10 A380s with new interiors, including updated economy and business class products. Now, whether or not Air France plans to follow through with retrofitting those aircraft is up in the air.

Related: Review of Air France’s Updated Airbus A330 Business Class

Air France’s updated business class aboard an Airbus A330 (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

“The other seven have older seats and we’re in the middle of making the decision on how long those A380s will be staying in the Air France fleet and whether we should invest €30-€40 million (£26.8-£35.8 million) per aircraft in upgrading those seats,” Smith told ATW.

With Air France already planning to return upwards of 50% of its A380 fleet, fuel prices rising and a price tag of around $200 million (£~157 million) to update the remaining A380s, it appears as though the airline might be gearing up to retire its entire fleet of Airbus A380s sooner than originally planned.

Ultimately, Air France’s decision on whether or not to update its remaining A380s will depend on the availability of replacement aircraft and the benefits associated with keeping the super-jumbos compared to the high cost of operation and cabin updates.

Air France first took delivery of the Airbus A380 in late 2009. Today, the Airbus A380 features an outdated cabin compared to the rest of the airline’s long-haul fleet. Numerous aircraft, including select Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s, are slated to receive updated cabin interiors and seats. Some Airbus A330s already sport the airline’s phenomenal new business class product. The airline will also take delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 later this year. With older aircraft set to receive updated cabins and the delivery of the Airbus A350, the Airbus A380 will become one of the least-desirable aircraft to fly aboard on long-haul flights operated by Air France.

Air France A380 Business Class
Air France Airbus A380 Business Class Seats (Photo by Nicholas Ellis / The Points Guy)

For now, however, Air France’s official timeline is as follows:

  • 3-5 Airbus A380s to be returned to the lessor/retired beginning in late 2019
  • 5-7 Airbus A380s remain by the end of 2021
  • The remaining 5-7 Airbus A380s will begin to receive new cabin interiors beginning in 2020

Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy

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