One of the biggest casualties of the pandemic in terms of aviation is the Airbus A380. Very early on in March 2020, Air France announced it would be retiring all of its Airbus A380s early. The airline previously had nine in its fleet, but what happened to each aircraft?
Speeding up the retirement plan
Air France had initially said it would retire its aging fleet of 10 A380-800s by 2022. The first aircraft had actually left the fleet in December 2019 before the pandemic started. Registered F-HPJB, the aircraft was leased, joining Air France in February 2010. The lessor flew the aircraft to Malta for stripping, and then it was eventually broken up earlier this year in Northern Ireland.
The remaining nine aircraft were due to be phased out slowly, but when the pandemic hit, the airline took the plunge and retired the remaining nine almost immediately. Eight of the aircraft were placed into storage, where, according to planespotters.net, they remain to this day.
The only exception is the aircraft registered with Air France as F-HPJE, reregistered as 9H-AIY. The aircraft is now part of the German company Dr. Peters Group. The company has three aircraft including another A380. It invests in aircraft, ships, and real estate, usually antiques. Although, its newest A380 from Air France is just 11 years old.
Where are the A380s stored?
Storing aircraft is an exact operation. The pandemic has meant huge numbers of aircraft have been placed into long-term storage, so space is at a premium. Aircraft need to be kept in dry places where humidity can’t damage the metal. As such, Air France sent two of its A380s to the Spanish desert, Teruel, to protect the aircraft. Even if an aircraft is going to be scrapped and used for parts, the plane still needs to be protected from damage.
Six of the airline’s A380s are still in France at the Tabres-Lourdes Pyrenees airport. TARMAC Aerosave uses the airport as a boneyard and began dismantling A380s back in 2018. The group also has a base in Teruel, where it will likely dismantle Air France’s other A380s.
The final fate of the A380
Since the A380s are still in storage, they could be rescued by an airline looking to give them a new lease on life. Some of the A380s are just 10 or 11 years old, making them very young to be scrapped. Some airlines like Emirates have indicated that they have no plans to retire their A380s just yet. A rebound in international long-haul travel could see these superjumbos have a surge in demand.
However, it’s unlikely all of Air France’s A380s will be saved, and chances are they will be scrapped and used for parts. Air France seems happy to see the end of the A380, but with plenty of airlines still choosing the aircraft, we could see a few of them repainted and back in the skies.
What do you think will happen to the A380s? Will they ever come out of storage? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.