Air France Will Retire Five A380s, Refresh The Remaining Five

A few months ago Air France-KLM appointed a brilliant new CEO, Ben Smith, who is making some changes at the airline. A few weeks ago I shared some of the stuff that’s potentially on the new management team’s radar, which should give you a sense of the changes we can expect.

One of the topics I found especially interesting was regarding the future of Air France’s A380s.

Air France’s A380 situation

Air France has a total of 10 Airbus A380s in their fleet. The airline hasn’t really loved the plane, as seems to be the case for just about all airlines except Emirates. Air France actually initially had 12 Airbus A380s on order, but they ended up converting two of the orders, which shows you just how much the plane hasn’t worked out for them.

Previously the plan was that Air France would start retrofitting the A380s with new cabins in 2020, though the new management team was apparently reconsidering that, given the cost of doing so. This brought into question whether Air France would just retire their A380s sooner. We now have our answer.

Air France will retire half their A380s, upgrade the other five

LesEchos.fr reports that the airline has decided what to do with their A380s:

  • Air France will gradually retire five of their 10 Airbus A380s; it just so happens that five of their A380s are leased, so those will be returned gradually, starting in late 2019, when two of the leases are up
  • Air France will then reconfigure the remaining five A380s starting in late 2020, which will cost roughly 45 million Euros per aircraft, which is insanely expensive; so the airline will spend 225 million Euros updating those five planes


Air France’s A380 first class

Air France’s 777 first class

It seems logical for the airline to retire five of these planes, though it is a bit disappointing that Air France will be waiting another two years before reconfiguring the remaining aircraft, given how outdated the cabins are.

Why hasn’t the A380 worked out well for Air France?

  • The operating costs are too high, especially in comparison to the 777-300ER, which they otherwise use for many of their flagship longhaul routes
  • The airline has had a lot of operational issues with these planes
  • These planes have awful customer satisfaction results, though that’s related to these planes having the worst cabins
  • These planes are really expensive to reconfigure, which made it difficult for them to do anything to improve the onboard product

Bottom line

Of course in an ideal world we would see Air France keep all 10 A380s and install showers and bars on them. šŸ˜‰ However, in the real world, what Air France is doing makes a lot of sense.

The A380 simply hasn’t panned out the way most airlines were hoping. It’s not worth it for them to renew the leases on these planes (which means there will be even more A380s on the secondhand market), while they might as well invest the money to reconfigure the planes they own with the new cabins.

Comments

  1. I’m flying biz class from DC to Paris end of May for French Open. Plane is listed as A380. Any chance it may be switched to 777 by then? And is biz class seat really that bad, angled lie flat? Thx!

  2. You know I have always enjoyed the 380 on AF First is lame I agree but Biz is quite nice. I would rather fly biz on AF than BA any day of the week.

  3. Pay me now or pay-me later!
    Knucklehead decision to fit out of date seats in A380 now coming back to haunt them. Serves them right

  4. It will be interesting to see which carrier is most likely to pick these used A380 up. I still think BA could do with some more, given they weren’t getting the bargain prices they hoped for from Airbus.

    As far as AF A380s are concerned is there an economically viable way to deploy such a small fleet? Operationally it doesn’t make sense to only hand back five aircraft as it won’t improve the dreadful situation they’re in.

  5. This might be the beginning of the end of the Airbus Super Jumbo. Emirates alone saved the production so far, but will remain alone and canā€™t possibly think will be able to keep it alive alone. Too bad. I am in love with this product (not so much the pilots). But for passengers, in all of the three classes itā€™s a nice treat.

  6. Slightly off topic, but any news of how Hifly is getting on making use of its 2 A380s? After the high profile chaos with Norwegian what are these planes doing now?

    With more second hand A380s coming on the market that’s got to depress their value further I’d assume.

  7. The A380 was a vanity project from the start and Air France’s decision to purchase it was equally vain and unnecessary. The A380 simply does not fit into the AF network. The plane was developed just as technology was shifting from 4 to 2 engine planes and the operational costs to refit airports and manage this behemoth has proven to not be worth the effort. Am booked on one from JFK to CDG in May 2019. Wondering if it will be swapped out for the 773, 772, or the A332.

  8. Boeing schooled Airbus by going twin lr w/ 777. I remember Richard Branson saying “people will pay a premium for 4 engines” when Airbus’ next great idea was the A340. Big strategic mistake. Only to be outdone by releasing A380 as Boeing ends life of 747.

  9. Really surprised with the ā€œawful customer satisfaction ā€œ….

    Iā€™ve flown a economy, premium economy and biz on the A380s and absolutely love it. Itā€™s the one plane I really look forward to….

    Sad to see them go.

    I wonder if they are considering buying 5 new ones with the new cabins fitted.

  10. In economythe Air France a 380 was one of the most comfortable experiences Iā€™ve ever had including the seats, space to stretch and just about everything… what a pity

  11. Agree with Wonkachocolat.
    Stating that the customer experience is awful is just not right.
    The 380 is the best airplane out there ā€” quiet, roomy, smooth.
    If the cabin is outdated, that has nothing to do with the aircraft itself.
    I go out of my way to fly the 380. I feel so much better after a long flight.

  12. The article reported not stated that the customer feedback AF was getting was bad, and I made the assumption that these complaints were coming primarily from those who flew first class and expected a better product. The pic of the AF 380 first class cabin is surprising. To me it appears to be a business class cabin. I believe the article made clear AF’s decision on cabin design was a large part of the dissatisfaction. But the economics-based decision on returning half their fleet seems clear that they don’t own these leased aircraft and can let them go without financial penalty. One wonders what AF’s decision on the 380 would have been if all 10 were leased.

  13. I have NEVER understood the A380. I didn’t think they made sense when announced; I didn’t think they made sense when they told to the air; I didn’t think they made sense when I’ve flown on them. Now, let me hastily acknowledge that I have NOT flown in F or J on an A380; I was in Y on Emirates, which was surprisingly comfortable on a (relatively) short int’l flight JFK-MXP. But it’s the sheer size of the A380, its four engines, LACK of fuel economy, and its high potential for disasterĀ¹…it’s a duck.

    I know that the A380 has been touted for its fuel economy, but IMHO it’s “smoke and mirrors.” For example, the International Council on Clean Transportation, or ICCT (see https://www.theicct.org/blogs/staff/inflight-luxury-who-really-pays) has said, “The A380 is marketed as a ‘green giant’ and one of the most environmentally advanced aircraft out there. But that spin is based on a maximum-capacity aircraft configuration, or about 850 economy passengers. In reality, a typical A380 aircraft has 525 seats. Its fuel performance is comparable to that of a B747-400 ER and even about 15% worse than a B777-300ER on a passenger-mile basis (calculated using Piano-5 on a flight from AUH to LHR, assuming an 80% passenger load factor, and in-service fleet average seat counts).”

    Indeed, the A380 has the third WORST mpg/per pax. outside of the A330 and A340: 72-74 mpg per seat, versus 84-92 mpg per seat for the A350-900, and up to 102mpg per seat for the 787-900…

    Just my own 2Ā¢. YMMV…

    _______________
    Ā¹ I’ve long thought that, like the Concorde, one accident would ground the fleet.

  14. I still find the argument odd. When utilised fully, the A380 has the best fuel efficiency/lowest per pax cost of any plane. That suggests AF utilisation has not been optimal.

    Also, given increasing passenger numbers internationally, including that airport use is expanding, it’s not that there’s a shortage of passengers out there.

    The merits of the A380 are still justified; it just appears to be an operational issue or they’re trying to refine their market to more high-end and discard lower end passengers, and then introducing lines like Joon for the budget end.

  15. So what is the fate of the non-EK A380 fleet? Flying sardine cans for charter operators and ULCCs to haul people to the Cancuns, Benidorms and Jejus of the world?

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