British Airways will eventually return their A380 fleet to service, says their CEO. But those eager to see the giants fly again, will have to wait.
Four engined aircraft have slowly been falling out of favour for over a decade now. Even before the pandemic, some airlines had began to retire their older aircraft. “Older” being relative, of course, as many A380s in particular, were barely a decade old. Considering that some aircraft serve twice as long, before starting a new career as freighters, this seems impressive.
This was before 2020. But the pandemic’s arrival triggered the retirements of many more of the jets. 747s, A380s and A340s alike, have taken the road for long-term storage. Or worse. British Airways initially put its A380 fleet in storage, but its 747s were less lucky. Unlike the A380 fleet, British Airways’ 747s were around 3 decades old already. The plan was to begin phasing out the Queen of the Sky from 2022-23, but this changed. By the end of fall last year, the aircraft were out of service.
Many other airlines did the same. But not all airlines have the same circumstances. Obviously the 747s of cargo companies are quite safe, now. And rather busy, given cargo demand in these times. Unfortunately, the A380 is not an aircraft that could serve as a freighter – to many people’s disappointment. The same goes for the A340. And while the 747’s abilities as a freighter for oversize loads are quite unique, they don’t apply to converted jets.
British Airways And The Airbus A380
With its 747s gone in 2020, many wondered if British Airways’ A380 fleet would soon follow. An encouraging clue has been the fact that BA’s double-decker Airbuses have been doing the odd flight. Of course this was usually for routine maintenance. But this showed that the aircraft were in short-term storage, and that the airline was keeping them ready for use. And in a recent interview Sean Doyle, BA’s CEO said:
“The A380 isn’t flying at the minute but it is in our plans for the future rebuild of the airline. Exactly when we will put the A380 back into service is something that we’re not clear on.”
Doyle doesn’t expect the airline to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023-24. But that doesn’t mean that British Airways won’t return the A380 to service before then. That is because British Airways is an airline for which the A380 still makes sense. And this is because of the limited slot availability of Heathrow airport.
We have already seen that BA is considering using widebodies for some short and medium-haul flights. While seeing an A380 flying from London to Athens is quite unlikely this summer, the same isn’t necessarily true for some more distant destinations. As British Airways ramps up other Heathrow operations, the A380s could handle longer flights that would have previously needed two aircraft.
This is, after all, precisely what the A380’s designers envisioned. A hub-and-spoke workhorse, doing double the work of other jets. Given the uncertainty of the way the industry will recover from our present mess, the A380 is a tool that British Airways thinks is worth having.
So while the airline might not recover fully until 2024, some popular routes could involve a A380, much earlier.