Presumed dead live longer: return of the A380 | Economy | DW

“Those Said Dead Fly Longer” or “Never Say Never” would be titles to match this amazing comeback. The Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner with over 600 seats (Emirates variant), has already been written off and recalled by many operators. But now, to deal with the sudden massive increase in passenger numbers and to remove bottlenecks in Boeing’s deliveries, they are returning in far more numbers than expected.

In the last week of June, according to the internet portal flight radar24 129 A380s already in the air with seven airlines worldwide, more than half of all 251 aircraft of this type delivered, and more are added every week. Even Lufthansa has just made a spectacular reversal of the A380 and announced its return to the 2023 summer flight schedule at the end of March next year.

Camouflage and parking: A380 at Taree-Lourdes Airport in the French Pyrenees

The first machines have already been dismantled

The great renaissance that was unthinkable a few months ago is now underway. Passengers love the A380. But almost all airlines struggled to operate the airman economically, with their thirsty four engines and multiple seats on board, and the plane that Airbus had hoped to build over a thousand became a commercial flop.

Only the largest customer, Dubai-based Emirates, continued to rely fully on its flagship aircraft, of which Arab airlines received a total of 123, almost half of all A380s produced. Production ended last year, and Emirates received the last giant plane produced at the Airbus plant in Hamburg in December 2021. The era of the four-engine wide-body aircraft is finally over, and production of the Boeing 747 will also be discontinued in 2022, after more than 50 years. Air France eventually retired its ten Airbus A380s ahead of the pandemic, the first of which had already been dismantled. When Corona struck worldwide and flight operations were grounded in spring 2020, a rapid end to almost all remaining A380s seemed inevitable. With the exception of Emirates, which has already announced that they will continue to use their massive fleet of double-decker buses with showers and on-board bars until the mid-1930s.

Germany |  Airbus delivers the last A380 to Emirates

The last of the 251 units will be delivered to Emirates on December 16, 2021 in Hamburg, which has 123 units in the fleet

“She won’t come back”

Lufthansa, which had a total of 14 with 509 seats in its portfolio since 2010, also pulled the hand: it sent the entire fleet into an alleged retirement, and Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr emphasized for the first time in August 2021: “The A380 will come naturally don’t come back. “And in April 2022 he explained to the magazine Mirror: “This is the end. Compared to the latest long-range twin-engine jets, the A380 is too uneconomical. Lufthansa will not do that anymore. “

If you want to see giant jets from Lufthansa and many other airlines today, you have to go to the French pilgrimage site of Lourdes, for example. At Tarbes-Lourdes Airport, against the magnificent backdrop of the snowy Pyrenees, there are dozens of passenger planes, many of which are brand new straight from the nearby Airbus factory in Toulouse, never carrying any passengers.

Spain Pyrenees |  Parked Airbus A380 in Taree-Lourdes

One of the decommissioned Lufthansa A380s to be reactivated

But also a few used A380s. You can get close to the sleeping giants right on the thin wire fence: the windows and motors are covered with silver foil, the landing gear legs are carefully packed, and all hull openings are carefully sealed. DeepStorage this is called the dream of sleeping beauty. “It takes nine months for our A380 to get up and running,” said DW Lufthansa Spohr, Lufthansa CEO recently.

Boeing’s trouble with the 777-9

And it is really going to happen now. Four to five of the eight remaining rear-mounted A380s are to be re-adapted to planned operations. “I had to soften my position at the last end of the A380,” admitted Spohr at the end of June. And not only with passenger numbers, which in some cases quickly surpassed 2019 levels, but even more with Boeing’s big problems.

There, Lufthansa was one of the take-off customers for the largest long-haul aircraft currently produced, the Boeing 777-9, in which the German company plans to install 400 seats. However, their delivery was delayed by about five years and is not expected in the Lufthansa fleet before 2025. “Delays in the delivery of the Boeing 777-9s are a heavy strain on our flight operations,” complains Spohr. The obvious interim solution was to bring the already written A380 back into service. Lufthansa has sold six of its former 14 giants to Airbus in an exchange deal, and the first will change hands in October 2022.

Emirates Airbus A380 airplane

Up in the sky soon: A380

Pilots chased from the farm

Spohr says that of the remaining eight, four to five will initially depart from Munich base in spring 2023, and there could be even more if demand remains strong. The main reason for stationing in Bavaria is the need for pilots. “We only kept 14 A380 pilots ready to fly for immediate deployment. If we now bring the A380 back, we will also have to qualify a few A350 pilots, ”says Spohr. The related Airbus model is stationed in Munich and some A350 cockpit crews are to be trained in six-week courses to also fly an A380. Not to be forgotten: in 2021, Lufthansa offered its pilots a six-digit check-in for A380 pilots, according to a specialist portal up to 35,000 euros extra.

The announcement of the return of its giants gave Lufthansa a rare opportunity in the current situation where it is heavily criticized by the public over many problems in air operations: finally, to announce the positive news that has been shared on social media with many considered red hearts.

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