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Since taking delivery — with much attention — of its first A380, there have been rumors swirling about which airline would be the first to sign a wet-lease contract to operate Hi Fly’s superjumbo — the world’s first used A380. As of Wednesday, we found out which carrier it would be. And, much to surprise of many followers of the situation, it turned out to be UK-based charter airline Thomas Cook.
On Wednesday, Hi Fly’s first A380 — registration 9H-MIP — took off to position from Beja (BYJ) to Copenhagen (CPH), landing just after 6:00am local time. Later Wednesday, the Hi Fly A380 will carry its first revenue passengers on a charter flight from CPH to Larnaca, Cyprus (LCA) — flight DK1102.
As of 2:45pm ET, flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 shows the superjumbo as having departed — albeit with a delay.
According to reports, Thomas Cook had to make the move to sign a short-term wet-lease contract with Hi Fly for its A380 because of an IT breakdown, leaving passengers stranded at Rhodes Airport in Greece. Thomas Cook sent one of its aircraft to Rhodes, leaving the carrier without an aircraft to operate this charter flight.
Originally scheduled to be operated by one of the carrier’s A321s, the A380 represents an aircraft with many more seats. The A321 that was set to operate this route is configured with 220 economy seats. However, the Hi Fly A380, which is features the same interior of its preceding operator Singapore Airlines, can carry a total of 471 passengers across three cabins and two decks.
You can catch an inside look of the Hi Fly A380 here. But in short, it features 12 first-class suites, 60 lie-flat seats in business class and 399 seats in economy.
TPG reached out to Thomas Cook for comment but did not hear back by time of publication.
It remains unclear which airline the Hi Fly A380 will be leased to on a longer-term basis. In the interim, this short-term deal with Thomas Cook makes history as the first-ever wet-leased A380.
Featured image by Zach Honig.
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