Update: Air France has now revealed that they plan to retire all A380s by 2022, and they’ve even retired their first A380.
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disappointing that Air France will be waiting another two years before reconfiguring the remaining aircraft, given how outdated the cabins are.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
Of course in an ideal world we would see Air France keep all 10 A380s and install showers and bars on them. 😉 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.