Qatar Airways' first-class-equipped Airbus A380 will fly again, report says
There's great news for aviation enthusiasts who miss the world's largest passenger jet, the Airbus A380.
Doha-based Qatar Airways is bringing the super-jumbo back to the skies starting in November, as first reported by Executive Traveller. At the outset of the pandemic, Qatar — like most A380 operators worldwide — had moved to permanently ground its fleet of double-deckers.
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After all, the plane's economics didn't necessarily make sense in a mid- and post-pandemic world. The gas-guzzling A380 packs 500 or more passengers on a single jet, and without strong demand on key routes, flying a more fuel-efficient plane like the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner makes more financial sense.
For Qatar, the decision to return the A380 to the skies is two-fold. For one, the airline predicts that there'll be higher-than-anticipated pent-up demand for travel around the winter holidays. With increasing vaccination rates worldwide and easing border restrictions, more travelers might be eager to visit friends and relatives this December.
“We have to find capacity for our passengers who need airlines to take them to their loved ones for Christmas," Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker told Executive Traveller.
To match the strong demand, Qatar is planning to increase capacity on key routes this winter. But, the airline is running into an issue: it doesn't currently have enough active jets to boost supply.
In August, the airline grounded 13 of its Airbus A350 jets after state regulators finding accelerated deterioration of the plane's fuselage. Since that parked a good chunk of its long-haul fleet, Qatar is turning to its A380s to fill the gap.
For now, Qatar plans to fly just five of its ten A380s, though the airline is already envisioning a future where it returns the entire fleet to the sky next year.
From a passenger experience perspective, those in the pointy end of the upper deck will be very happy. Qatar's A380 is the only jet in the airline's fleet to feature both a first- and business-class cabin.
There are eight suites in first class, 48 lie-flat reverse herringbone pods in biz and 461 standard coach seats occupying the entire main deck and a portion of the upper deck as well. There's also a walk-up bar at the back of the biz cabin for premium passengers.
Though the A380 doesn't feature Qatar's award-winning QSuite biz product, the reverse herringbone pods are quite spacious and have received rave reviews from flyers.
There's no telling which route(s) the A380 will fly, but we'll be sure to update the article once the airline loads the plane into the schedule.
To prepare the A380 for its reinauguration, Qatar is bringing back furloughed pilots and retraining them in the coming weeks. The airline will also need to perform maintenance checks to bring the planes out of long-term storage.
In addition to resuming A380 flights in advance of a busy winter season, Qatar is bringing back some of its parked Airbus A330s and putting out a call for additional temporary Boeing 777 pilots from the airline's close partner, British Airways.