Asiana’s plan to keep A380 pilots certified: Fly 30 flights to nowhere
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many of the world’s largest passenger aircraft have been grounded. As airlines attempt to preserve cash, many have taken to storing — and, in some cases, retiring — their fleets of Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 aircraft. But with storing aircraft comes a major problem for airlines by the way of keeping trainee pilots certified.
Asiana Airlines is one of those carriers. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s grounded its A380 fleet. But with no plans retire the aircraft, the carrier is now operating empty flights in an effort to keep its trainee pilots certified.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
In May, Asiana flew one of its A380 aircraft over South Korea more than 20 times. Each of the trips was a flight to nowhere, carrying no passengers to allow trainee pilots to practice takeoffs and landings.
While the trip may seem like a waste of resources and unnecessary fuel consumption, an Asiana spokesperson told Bloomberg that the airline didn’t have another option. The flight simulators that it typically uses are located in Thailand, and because of coronavirus travel bans, the trainee pilots weren’t able to fly to the Thai Airways-owned simulators to practice. And alternatively, the cost of letting the trainee pilots’ licenses lapse was too high.
Asiana has six Airbus A380s in its fleet — all of which are currently stored. According to flight history on FlightRadar24, Asiana used its A380 registered as HL7625 to operate most of the training flights. Each of the flights between May 6-8 took off from Seoul Incheon (ICN), circled and landed back at the airport, with each flight averaging around 22 minutes, though some were longer or shorter.
Then in June, Asiana A380s registered as HL7634 and HL7635, HL7640 and HL7641 each operated one test flight on the same routing from ICN to ICN. In total, Asiana’s A380s appear to have operated 30 ICN-ICN flights, according to data from FlightRadar24.
Under normal circumstances, pilots must have taken off and landed an aircraft at least three times in the past 90 days to retain their license, including those cycles completed in a flight simulator.
According to the airline, there were 135 pilots who didn’t have enough flying time on the A380s and it couldn’t afford to keep flying the empty training flights. As a special exemption, Korea’s transport minister extended the pilots’ credentials.
While Asiana is keeping its pilots licensed to operate its A380s, it may be some time before the carrier returns the superjumbos to operation. Given the high capacity of the aircraft — Asiana’s A380s seat 495 passengers across three cabins — and the subsequent high operating cost, the airline may not return the aircraft to service anytime soon.
Elsewhere, operators of A380s have had to make similar decisions. While most larger airlines have their own flight simulators, allowing them to avoid flights to nowhere, they have also elected to keep their A380 fleets grounded or even completely retired.
On the other hand, the world’s largest A380 operator Emirates resumed operations with the superjumbo on July 15 to both London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Emirates President Sir Tim Clark said this month that the airline plans to have all A380s back in service by 2022.
Featured photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees