It is an ill wind that blows no good, or so they say. By all accounts, the winds of history over the past two years have been anything but good. Other than the obvious tragedies and losses, many industries have been decimated, very few more so than the travel and airline industry. With countries and states locking down to various levels around the world, travel has become a far off memory from another life and time. But a change is being felt and it seems waking the giant is called for. Bring back the Airbus A380.
Covid vaccinations started off slowly in many countries with mixed messaging, misinformation and scarcity of vaccines in some cases holding back the rollout. In Australia for example the rollout was hampered by distrust of one type and scarcity of other types, but that is now in the past. New freedoms in some states of the country are promising to bring back some sort of normality as a reward for passing specific milestones of the percentage of the population being fully vaccinated. The game-changer is that if travellers go overseas and are fully vaccinated, they do not have to do hotel quarantine on return home. QANTAS CEO, Alan Joyce, said this makes international travel possible again.
The opening up of international travel routes will be a gradual affair. With varying levels of covid containment in different countries, new agreements will have to be made between those countries. For example, the return of Australians to the popular holiday isle of Bali will be dependant on agreements that can be thrashed out between Australia and Indonesia on what rules and conditions will govern who can come to Bali and what procedures they need to follow. If, for example, the Indonesian government requires arriving travellers to quarantine for any significant time on arrival, it is pretty much a non-starter.
So why does it mean a reawakening of the giant, the Airbus A380? Well, we used to be able to fly all over the place, pretty much. Now, however, we will have for the near future a more limited amount of places we can fly to. To that limited amount of places, we have a large portion of the population who is busting a gut to get their butt on a plane seat. Missed family, friends, events or just to get the hell out and see something different. The point is, we will have many people going to similar destinations, therefore, more seats are required. The Airbus A380 is the biggest there is, so is perfect for the job.
QANTAS for its part has its twelve Airbus A380s parked at Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV) in the Mojave Desert. This location was chosen over the more local Alice Springs where airlines like Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have chosen to store their aircraft because it is drier. The earlier than expected restart of international travel has sparked a lot of activity and excitement. To reawaken an aircraft from its slumber takes thousands of man-hours and is already underway. We believe we may see the first of two QANTAS A380s back in Australia on Christmas day. Two aircraft will return initially and be used on short routes to enable retraining of personnel. The plan is to use these two initial aircraft on the Sydney to Los Angeles route. This route is some 7,500 miles in length with an eastbound travel time of 13 hours and 45 minutes and westbound of 15 hours. This means that two aircraft are required to maintain the schedule which begins on 27 March 2022 and is currently showing as:
QF11 Sydney to Los Angeles departing 10:15AM arriving 6:00AM
QF12 Los Angeles to Sydney departing 9:55PM arriving 6:55AM (+2 days)
Three more A380s are due to arrive back in Australia in November 2022 and are slated to operate on the Sydney to London via Singapore route. Five more are due back in early 2024, leaving two which may well be scrapped.
Singapore Airlines, the launch airline for the Airbus A380, announced a few days ago that it will bring the A380 back into its fleet on 18 November 2021. The aircraft will operate as SQ317 from Changi to Heathrow. For a month from 04 November to 01 December, the A380 will operate crew training flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. From 01 December an A380 will be put on the Singapore to Sydney run to add to the Christmas seat availability.
Earlier this month British Airways also announced it was bringing back some of its A380s to be used on the Miami, Dubai and Los Angeles routes. It also has intentions of running short-haul training flights initially to Madrid and Frankfurt, so there may be opportunities for planespotters who would not normally see those aircraft in their home airport.
Qatar Airways will also bring back five of its A380s in November to service routes to London, Heathrow and Paris, Charles de Gaul. CEO Akbar Al-Baker said it was not for the love of the aircraft as he has indicated in the past that buying the A380 was the airline’s biggest mistake. There is even a possibility of all ten of their A380 fleet coming back online to fill in the gap left by their A350s grounded by a fuselage skin problem.
What of Emirates? By far the largest operator of the type. Well, they have still been flying A380 through the pandemic, but at half strength. That means around forty-three have been in service while seventy-seven have been stored. Emirates says they will bring more back into service before the end of the year.
So an ill wind it may be, but for the Airbus A380, this ill wind may well mean that it gets a few more years of useful life before disappearing into history.
How do you feel about the A380 coming back? Are you happy about it, do you like travelling on it? Are you lining up for those first seats?
Safe travels everyone.