From the novelty on the ground to the sheer joy of experiencing the A380 in the air, it’s been sad watching the untimely disappearing act of the Airbus A380 “super jumbo”.
Even airline which used the double decker to introduce new levels of on board luxury; like shower suites and first class apartments, simply can’t make the plane work with so few people flying. Limited cargo abilities and the plights of four engines aren’t helping, either.
An unlikely contender may be breathing new life into the Airbus A380 though, even as Etihad, an early champion of the double decker plane, removes all acknowledgement of it from the airline’s website.
British Airways appears poised to refurbish their Airbus A380 fleet with the latest seats and tech, signaling a return to the skies for the super jumbo, even amid rumors that it would never fly again. An expensive refurbishment program simply wouldn’t happen if British Airways planned on anything less than a return to service, for years to come.
British Airways Bringing Airbus A380 Back?
British Airways still plans to install new first class suites, the latest iteration of the ‘Club Suite’ for business class – complete with privacy door, and updated premium economy and economy cabins to the Airbus A380. The update comes after recent rumors which suggested previous plans to carry on upgrading the A380’s might be scrapped.
It’s not immediately clear whether “new” first class suite will mean something brand new, or just the newer “suite” being installed on other BA planes. Regardless, it sounds like these planes might be coming back, against all odds.
The mammoth planes have been “parked” and in storage for much of the pandemic, with strong rumors they’d never return.
According to multiple sources inside the airline, plans to green light a refurbishment, and a subsequent return to service are still moving ahead as of the 22nd of April. A final decision won’t be made for some time, but it’s “looking good”.
Many details still to come will determine the ultimate viability of bringing these planes back, but all signs continue to point to the plane reentering service for British Airways, after a brief patch of touch and go. Airlines just don’t spend money on new seats, for planes headed to the scrap heap!
So where might the BA A380 fly, if a triumphant return is in the cards?
The A380 was always expected to be a hub workhorse, allowing airlines to squeeze more out of each flight, to places where new slots – aka more flights – are hard to come by.
Think: Dubai, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong. Whereas cities like New York are all about having nearly hourly flights, these markets were about making the most out of fewer flights, by adding more passengers onto each.
For example, Los Angeles, where slots are difficult to purchase, flying a full A380 would allow the airline to squeeze more out of its typical twice daily flights, than with smaller aircraft, without needing to secure another third, fourth or fifth pair of take off and landing slot at heavy cost.
You make more money on volume, with an extra couple hundred paying passengers per flight. A full A380 would typically generate more revenue from passengers than any other plane, given its size. Why sell 200 ice cream cones, when you can sell 500?
The caveat: planes need to fly full for the Airbus A380 to make commercial sense.
The A380, for all its brilliance, is plagued by a few design “flaws”.
Cargo is proving to be a lifeline for airlines hoping to stay afloat and the Airbus A380 is surprisingly poor in cargo space, despite its overall imposing stature. The four gas guzzling engines and related maintenance needs don’t help either, in a time when airlines are choosing fuel efficiency over just about everything.
But if a route experiences meaningful and sustained demand and passenger numbers are near full on each flight, the A380 is a golden ticket. Talks of “green” air corridors between safe places may create a surge in demand where the A380 thrives.
Ultimately, this heavy risk and reward game is why many airlines have sought more economical solutions such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, which bring greater fuel efficiency, excellent cargo storage to make flights more profitable and aren’t quite as large as others.
Some airlines, such as the likes of JetBlue and TAP Portugal have even gone smaller, opting for narrow body, single aisle aircraft for new long haul services. There’s a lot less pressure to “launch” when you’ve got a smaller number of seats to fill, and fuel efficient planes to help ease things in.
GSTP Take: Wouldn’t It Be Nice?
For passengers, the A380 brought a golden age back into aviation, with innovation in each cabin. The most spacious seats in economy, premium, business and first class are typically found on the A380.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if another airline, British Airways, took a stab at making this plane make sense, rather than sending the fleet to pasture, long before their days? If air travel corridors between the US and UK get the green light everyone is hoping for, these double deckers could be the perfect solution for pent up demand.