The coronavirus has been tough on the aviation industry. Several airlines are going or have gone bankrupt. There is less commotion in airports and most fleets remain grounded. But it has taken a severe toll on some things more than others… Namely, airliners.
The A380 is one such airliner which is staring into the abyss amid the chaos spurred by the pandemic.
Lufthansa is the latest carrier which has mothballed its A380 aircraft for the foreseeable future.
Lufthansa’s A380 Humdrum
The superjumbo’s fate rests heavily on travel demand on busy routes. Lufthansa won’t shy away from using it if bookings on these flights surge soon. It has however ruled out its use in Frankfurt, hinting its return to the airline’s Munich base only.
Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub manager, Klaus Froese, confirmed this: “In Frankfurt, the chance that we will again operate any A380 is close to zero. That’s all but decided.”
Froese added that Airbus’ decision to halt its production contributed to Lufthansa’s lost of appeal for the aircraft. He said:
This is no longer a question of prestige, that’s a thing of the past…It changed pretty quickly since the decision to no longer build the aircraft.
Though the A380’s initial operations were based in Frankfurt, Lufthansa has gradually moved them to its Munich base beginning from 2018.
So when can we expect a return of the superjumbo? Well, it really depends on its use. Right now the superjumbo is as useful as a suitcase without a handle to airlines. No one wants to fly it.
Airlines are struggling to fill up even their smaller twin-jet aircraft — owing to low travel demand and social distancing policies — let alone filling up the 555-seater. Moreover, it can be a nightmare for the flight crew and the maintenance and ground staff.
Lufthansa is also not keen on keeping its A380s any longer. It has already packed away half of its 14 superjumbos, while the remaining await the same outcome if demand doesn’t recover quickly.
A380’s Last Convoy In French Village
The A380 will leave behind a legacy for years to come. On Wednesday, the last A380 convoy was celebrated across a village in France, where residents bid farewell to the superjumbo’s oversized parts passing through.
The enormous fuselage sections and other parts will reach their last destination of an assembly plant in southwest France. From there it will be assembled for the last time and finally shipped to the A380’s largest employer, Emirates.
A resident, Christiane Inard, told Reuters:
It has made the region live, together with all the villages round here and the people who built it. It’s magnificent.
Airbus’ decision to build the superjumbo will be debated for some time. There is no question however about the exalted status of the A380 in present-day commercial aviation. It has for a decade held a lofty status in aircraft hierarchy, with only a few airliners even coming close to the superjumbo’s sheer size and grandeur.
Before the coronavirus arrived, Lufthansa operated its A380 fleet on several key routes to global hubs such as New York, Chicago, Delhi, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Seoul.
Now, it is gradually resuming summer flights and hoping to recover from the heavy blows it has sustained. Its state-sponsored €9 billion stabilization package aims to provide additional support for the tough times ahead.
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