A sign of the times: Qatar won’t fly half its A380 fleet again

Jan 13, 2021

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There’s no doubt that the A380 is becoming an endangered species.

On Wednesday, Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker said at a CAPA Live event that the airline would only bring half of its fleet of 10 A380s back into service when demand for air travel starts to return to pre-COVID-19 levels. The airline’s entire fleet of A380s remains grounded at this time due to COVID-19.

“The 380 is, I think, one of the worst aircraft when it comes to emissions that is flying today,” Al Baker said. “This is why we have decided that we will not operate them for the foreseeable future and even when we operate them we will only operate half the numbers we have.”

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Qatar Airways has previously cited the aircraft’s sustainability as cause for concern about the future of the A380 in its fleet.

Of the 10 A380s in Qatar’s fleet, the average aircraft age is just 5.5 years, according to data from Planespotters.net. It first took delivery of one of the superjumbos in September 2014. The youngest of the Qatar A380s is just over 3 years old, having been delivered to the airline in April 2018.

The A380 is the only Qatar Airways aircraft outfitted with a first-class cabin — complete with a bar. Qatar’s famed Qsuite does not feature on any of the A380s, as it’s offered solely as business-class seating on some of the airline’s Boeing 777s and A350s. As for economy, flying Qatar’s A380 is one of the most comfortable ways to fly in the rear of the plane.

Related: Qatar Airways business-class seats ranked from best to worst

The initial outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020 forced many airlines to ground their A380s because of reduced passenger demand. Fast-forward to May and there was only one airline in the world still operating the superjumbo, though some have since resumed A380 operations.

The continued lack of demand for air travel over the course of 2020 meant that seeing A380s in the sky was rare. Airlines across the world have had to make network and fleet changes in line with the ongoing global crisis, which even meant that some airlines retired their A380s forever. French flag carrier Air France and Portuguese charter airline HiFly both retired the rest of their A380 fleets.

Emirates, the largest operator of the A380 with 117 of the aircraft in its fleet, remains committed to the aircraft. Even as the pandemic still looms, Emirates has resumed flying the A380 to several destinations, including London. Additionally, it elected to install its newest premium economy cabin on its brand-new A380s. The airline will resume flying its A380s to U.S. destinations in March.

Featured photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy.

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