Au revoir: Air France operates its final A380 flight Friday
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Air France is sending its Airbus A380s off to retirement with little public fanfare. The airline is welcoming staff who used to work the aircraft along for one special final flight, one to which passengers aren’t invited.
On Friday, Air France’s final planned A380 flight will take to the skies with just its A380 staff on board. Operating as Air France flight AF380, the aircraft will fly from the airline’s home base at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and back.
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With a planned departure time of around 3:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. ET), the aircraft will take a “tour de France” route around the country, before landing back at CDG around 5:45 p.m. local time (11:45 a.m. ET). On Friday, you can track the flight here.
AF380 will be operated by the superjumbo registered as F-HPJH. The aircraft is just a little more than eight years old, with Air France having taken delivery of it in May 2012. According to PlaneSpotters, F-HPJH was withdrawn from service on March 23. Its last commercial flight was from Miami to Paris on March 22, before being stored as a result of the coronavirus crisis and its devastating effect on the aviation industry.
While Air France has had a troubled relationship with the A380, it was the first European airline to operate the superjumbo in 2009. The carrier’s first commercial flight with the A380 departed on Nov. 23, 2009, from Paris (CDG) to New York (JFK) — also as flight AF380.
Over the course of the 11 years the airline flew the A380, it operated a total of 10 of the aircraft, serving 16 destinations. During the course of its lifetime, the A380 operated more than 40,000 flights for Air France and carried almost 18 million passengers, most frequently serving New York JFK. The aircraft also operated flights to Johannesburg, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Mexico City, Shanghai, Abidjan, Hong Kong, Miami, Tokyo, Montreal, Singapore, Atlanta, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and even London — for short crew-training flights — during its lifetime.
In May, the airline announced that it would be retiring its entire A380 fleet effective immediately. Benjamin Smith, CEO of the Air France-KLM Group, long opposed the A380 in Air France’s fleet, deeming it too inefficient. In replacement of the superjumbo, Air France will use its smaller but more fuel-efficient twin-engine Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 aircraft.
While many AvGeeks love the A380 for its sheer size, Air France’s version of the aircraft left a lot to be desired. Inside the aircraft, each of the four cabins on board offered a sub-par passenger experience — even in La Première, the carrier’s award-winning first-class product.
In a post-coronavirus aviation world, airlines will be forced to reevaluate their fleet plans and route networks. The A380 has largely been one of the first things to go for airlines looking to conserve cash during the period of reduced demand. Lufthansa confirmed that its A380s will remain grounded until at least 2021, and will only return if demand does.
Meanwhile, for the world’s largest A380 carrier Emirates, the plan is to resume A380 service to both London and Paris from July 15.
Featured photo courtesy of Air France.
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