A blast from the past: Qatar Airways resurrects iconic Airbus A380
The mammoth Airbus A380, air travel's version of a luxury mega ship, is making a comeback. It's the biggest passenger airliner ever manufactured -- a four-engine, double-decker air monster with a wingspan the length of four blue whales.
Qatar Airways is now putting more of the iconic superjumbos among the clouds to meet rising demand as travelers reconnect with loved ones or seek new business opportunities after the pandemic.
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The Qatari carrier has now "reactivated" eight A380s, one of which it has already deployed to whisk passengers between Sydney and Doha beginning June 1.
Its plan is to dispatch more A380s in the coming months connecting Asia with Europe.
“We will have eight (A380s) reactivated,” the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer Thierry Antinori told Executive Traveller. “We will look at different combinations between Europe and Asia.”
Qatar already put four of the jumbos back into action last November, connecting London and Paris to Doha.
Related: Qatar launches Avios transfers, British Airways lowers the price of Qsuite awards
That leaves just two of the airline’s 10-strong fleet of A380s still under dust sheets in Qatar's plane yard, with speculation they too might soon be wheeled out of retirement.
A return to favor?
The move signals something of a return to favor for the fuel-guzzling superjumbo -- once heralded as the future of air travel -- which has fallen on hard times of late.
The A380 has suffered in a crowded market where cost-efficiency and sustainability are king and queen. The past half-decade has seen the superjumbo trudge grimly towards the scrapyard as younger, more fashionable and fuel-efficient models step into its limelight.
And, after a number of airlines ditched their fleets of A380s and canceled orders, Airbus finally called a time-out on its production in 2021.
Related: Could the beleaguered A380 be the key to unlocking fossil-free flying?
Only last summer, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker branded his purchase of A380s as “the biggest mistake” in the company’s history after shelling out $4.9 billion ($498 million each) on ten planes across the last two decades.
“The biggest mistake we made was the purchase of Airbus A380s,” Al Baker said in June 2021. “We grounded the A380s simply because it is not a fuel-efficient airplane.”
A paint palaver
The return of the A380s was in some ways spurred on when Qatar was forced to ground almost half of its 53-strong fleet of A350s when peeling paint was noticed on some of the planes' fuselages.
Related: Airbus cancels more of Qatar Airways’ orders as paint fight continues
Qatar is now bogged down in a bitter legal wrangle with Airbus after suing the European manufacturer for $600 million for what it claims are dangerous "fuselage degradation" issues with the aircraft.
Then, when Qatar halted all orders with Airbus until the dispute is settled, the latter countersued in London's High Court for $220 million in damages over two completed A350s that are ready to be delivered.
So, while that saga trundles on, the old A380 workhorses are back. The question of how long they’ll stay in business this time, however, remains up in the air.