Air Austral’s Mysterious Hi Fly A380 Charter

This situation just keeps getting more interesting.

Hi Fly is the first ever airline to get the A380 on the secondhand market, and they’re also the first ever charter airline to have the plane. They recently took delivery of the A380, and even showed it off at the Farnborough Airshow.

The plane had its first ever lease yesterday, as it operated a Thomas Cook flight from Copenhagen to Larnaca. There’s quite an interesting back-story to that, as it was a last minute charter, and the A380 replaced an A321. Talk about a big upgrade!


First class on Hi Fly’s A380

While I found that interesting, the much bigger question has been what Hi Fly’s first long-term A380 lease will look like. The airline has claimed that they already have their first contract signed.

Hi Fly said that it’s for a major European carrier, and that the A380 will fly longhaul sectors during the summer period, with the possibility of an extension. They hadn’t named the airline, though many of us speculated about what the airline could be. The most common theories were Air Austral, Norwegian, Swiss, Turkish, and Virgin Atlantic.

While an official announcement still hasn’t been made, it looks like we now have a better sense of who the first long-term charter customer will be… or something.

Air Austral has updated their schedule to reflect that a Hi Fly A380 will be operating flights from Reunion to Paris on August 26, August 29, August 31, September 2, September 6, and September 8, and flights from Paris to Reunion on August 24, August 27, August 30, September 1, September 3, and September 7.

This is strange for several reasons:

  • The A380 frequency is in addition to the current two daily Boeing 777-300ER frequencies for these days, so it seems strange for them to add this much capacity last minute
  • These A380 flights are all zeroed out, meaning that no seats are for sale on the flights; I’m not sure if Air Austral has some sort of a charter contract, or what their plan is with these planes
  • Air Austral has ultra high density planes, so some passengers will be in for a treat; for example, Air Austral’s 777-300ERs have just 14 business class seats, while Hi Fly’s A380 has 12 first class seats and 60 business class seats
  • As of now Air Austral has only added the A380 to their schedule for six flights in each direction, while our assumption has been that Hi Fly has worked out a long term lease contract, so it makes me wonder if this is just a limited contract they have, or if they’ll soon load more flights into the schedule; could Hi Fly just have been overplaying their hand when they were talking about a long-term contract to try to tempt other airlines, or…?

Bottom line

For now this is still very much developing, as we haven’t seen an official announcement from Hi Fly or Air Austral. Air Austral has for several days been rumored to be Hi Fly’s first long-term A380 customer. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but it’s increasingly looking like that’s the case.

What’s odd is that these flights are “zeroed out” and only in the schedule for six flights in each direction, so I’m not sure if these are just specific charters, or what exactly is going on.

It’s a shame these flights aren’t for sale to the public, or else I’d book one in a heartbeat.

(Tip of the hat to @RwandAnFlyer)

Comments

  1. Just a point of correction.

    This would actually be an ACMI lease rather than a charter. The key difference is that a charter operates under the traffic authority, callsign, flight numbers, etc.. of the operating carrier while an ACMI lease uses those of the lessee.

  2. I’d say this a French government charter. That’s the only thing I can think of that’d generate that much traffic, especially with no available sale seats.

  3. The A380 flies OSL-PMI-OSL with pax today, making it the first evner A380 flying to or from Oslo with passengers (all other A380 visits have been without paying pax). The A380 is adding capacity helping Ving clear the backlog with stranded charter passengers due to the issues at Rhodos airport (which has caused successive aircraft delays within their self-operated fleet).

  4. August 24 (in the evening?) the aircraft leaves CDG and probably arrives the next day august 25 (in the morning?) in Roland-Garros Saint-Denis de la Réunion.

    One day rest for the crew maybe?

    August 26 (early time around midnight?) the aircraft leaves RUN and arrives the next day in Paris.

    Maybe something like this?

    Note that end of august is just before “La rentrée” in France.

    Schools start again for the kids and the parents have to be back to work, so a lot of family travel and all the issues around that every year.

  5. Hmmm…Given that Air Austral at one time considered deploying an all economy A380, there must be some periods of heavy traffic where they need more capacity then a 77W.

    It’s worth noting however that Air Austral’s 77ws are configured with 438 seats while Hi-fli’s ex SQ configuration seats approx 460. This suggests that once again the hi-fly 380 was leased due to a lack of availability of other suitable aircrafts versus its own merits. HI Fly and Airbus need to keep the champagne in the chiller as the business case for the 380 in the leasing market still remains unproven.

    I somehow think that Hi fly will need to consider densifying the aircraft for it to be a viable proposition for mainstream airlines. Most major network carriers will need the aircraft during peak leisure travel periods and the SQ configuration is too premium for such routes. Most network carriers such as KLM, Air Canada, Air France already have 777s that seat north of 400 passengers hence a leased 380 with 460 seats will just not add any value. A configuration like Emirates two class version would be far more appealing for this niche- perhaps more so with lesser premium seats.

    I suspect Hi fly is waiting to see the initial response before investing in a costly cabin refit however I just don’t see a market for these aircrafts unless they have more seats.

  6. Lucky, my fiancé who is an FA for Norwegian just confirmed to me that Hifly is using their A380 on the LGW-JFK flight for them for the next 20 days, you were right!

  7. They once considered getting their own A380s so they might be considering it again and using the Hi Fly one to test it out and see if it will work for them.

  8. @Lucky
    Remember in that original press release/ statement from Hi-Fly said that their long term lease was for summer 2019!

    I believe that these charters we’re seeing are rather ‘last minute’ charters.
    Norwegian shouldn’t have a problem filling those planes to JFK.

  9. It seems also Air Austral needs to do some works on the engine on one of the B787.

    So one aircraft is out of service and the lease of the A380 has been decided to cover it.

    All of that has also some impact of the Mayotte-Paris direct service. Some passengers will have to travel via La Réunion instead of the direct flight.

  10. The dates are school holidays. There are alot of 787 on regional service due to RR engines. I don’t believe their is much available capacity in the leasing market at the moment. Then again could be something to do with the pilot issue, it is a wet lease after all.

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