Two Airbus A380s Are Being Scrapped

Filed Under: Singapore

Unfortunately the A380 hasn’t panned out the way Airbus, and perhaps the world, expected. The plane entered commercial service in October 2007, with Singapore Airlines as the launch customer.

This was just over a decade ago, and at the time many believed that this would become the most popular long range plane in the world, given the growing demand for air travel globally.

That’s not how it has turned out, though. Instead production of the A380 has perpetually been on the brink of being discontinued. Not too long ago the plan was for A380 production to stop altogether, though a last minute order by Emirates saved the plane, at least for the next several years.

What’s crazy is that the plane is only just over a decade old, and the first ones are already being retired. In September 2016 we learned that Singapore Airlines planned on returning their first A380 to their leasing company in late 2017.

Then in May 2017 we learned that the airline will actually be retiring all five of their first A380s, as those lease expires. In fairness, Singapore Airlines had five more A380s on order, so the airline is essentially maintaining a consistent fleet, as they retire five planes and also take delivery of five planes.

So, what has happened with those five A380s so far?

  • One was taken over by Hi Fly, the Portuguese charter company, and has been leased out to other airlines
  • The other four are going back to their owners

While this has been discussed for quite a while, it’s finally happening. Two Airbus A380s — both of which flew for Singapore Airlines — are in the process of being scrapped for parts.

There are four A380s parked at Tarbes–Lourdes–Pyrénées Airport in France, and two of these have been in the process of being scrapped since December 2, 2018. The process of dismantling these planes takes a surprising amount of time.

As an aviation geek it’s sad to see an airplane “die,” and especially such a new plane.

Perhaps the shocking part is the financial result of all of this. Dr. Peters is the aircraft leasing company that owns these planes, so you’d think they’d be bummed, and that they’ve taken a big loss on these planes, having only leased the planes to one airline for a decade.

But nope, they’re expecting that when all is said and done, they’ll see a return on their investment of 145-155%.

The CEO of Dr. Peters has even said that scrapping the plane for parts will “satisfy and possibly even exceed the current expectations of investors.”

Apparently the 10 year lease of these planes covered somewhere around 72-81% of their obligations. On top of that they expect to get $45 million for the parts of the planes, plus the money they’re making from leasing out the engines.

Bottom line

It’s sad to think that only decade-old A380s are being scrapped for parts. At the same time, I guess the silver lining is that no one is really losing money here. Dr. Peters still made a profit on this plane, despite its short life.

Do note that the first several A380s built were heavier than the rest and didn’t have the same performance, so these weren’t very popular on the second-hand market. It’s possible that when more recently built A380s enter the second-hand market, there may be more interest.

Comments
  1. Didn’t airports spend a decent amount of money to be able to fit A380s ?

    I’m trying to remember if I ever flew in one. If I did, it was in business or first class from Europe. Obviously I’m not an aviation junkie.

  2. Well 145-155% over 10 years is just 4+% each year

    Not bad but not exactly a stellar financial result, really. I’m not sure what the usual would be for plane leasing though.

  3. DT what? 4% compounding over 10 years is 48% and change where the heck did you learn how to do math? 9.5 percent a year would be the actual rate of return.

  4. I get 0 feels from an A380 being dismembered. Ya they’re a technological wonder, ya they’re big and roomy, but they never gave me the fizz like a 747. They’re unattractive and have always just seemed too commercialized to me to have much of a soul. A 742 or 744 being ripped apart by a big steel claw (tear), but a big ugly beluga…meh.

  5. The A380 was a fantastic experience in premium for passengers, but obviously a business failure. My only flight was NRT-BKK in Thai business class. We took off and were climbing through 9000 feet when my wife asked why it was taking so long to take off. The plane was so smooth and quiet in the upper deck she didn’t know we’d left the ground! I just laughed, switched on the tail camera and pointed at the altitude display…

  6. The age of four engined passenger aircraft is over. As much as people like to hate on the A380 it is actually quite a successful run with 232 delivered and another 100 still on order. That compares very favourably with the 747-400 which had 694 frames delivered over a 20 year production span. Of that figure over 160 frames were pure freighter only, there is no A380 freighter variant, so again the A380 is just as successful as the 747-400.

    Now look at the disaster that is the 747-800I, just 47 frames delivered in 8 years. -800 production was cutback over the last few years from 2 frames a month to .5 frames a month and this production rate includes both the I & F variants.

  7. @majik – you’re inadvertently highlighting the greatest failure of the A380, which is that it doomed the superjumbo market by fragmenting it.

    232 A380s delivered in 11 years is about 21 frames a year.
    To do the same math on the 737-400, 534 passenger frames in 17 years = 31 a year.
    Unsurprisingly, the 747-8i production numbers (47 frames over 9 years = 5 a year) is roughly the difference between the 747-400 annual rate and the A380’s uptake.

    You can easily argue that the A380 is a better plane than the 747-8i; airlines seem to have agreed. Given that Airbus had a clean sheet, and spent €15B developing it, it *ought* to be better. But that’s moot given that it took them until 2016 to break even on the program, and orders from anyone but Emirates have tapered to almost nothing.

    Five years from now, the factory in Toulouse will likely be shuttered (maybe not so smart to have skipped the freighter!). All we’ll be left with are a few hundred aging frames, and dozens of airports with millions of dollars of useless improvements. And the 747-8 — which likely would have survived on its own — will be gone as well.

    Maybe no one will care, in the end — but I think it’s a loss to the world to not have any planes of that class in production. The ultimate failure of the A380 will likely guarantee that we’ll never see any again.

  8. How much do these beasts actualy cost to operate? Airbus-operator Finnair would urgently need more capacity to TYO, PVG, PEK in the summer but can’t get more slots. Secondhand A380s would be practically free, yet they don’t even consider it (and yes, there’s use for the birds in winter too, what with their 2–3 dailies to BKK).

  9. @majik – interesting metrics, but one needs to consider the 747 lineup as a whole to make the argument. The A380 had the ability to take a significant share of the 747 market, but the economics of operation and the logistics did not make the 380 suitable.

  10. @Daniel Four-engine aircraft cost a lot. Seat counts on the a380 are usually in the high 400s to low 500s (except for the super-high-density charter configs). AA’s 777-300 4-cabin config has ~300 seats but only 2 engines to run. On a unit basis there’s no comparison, especially once maintenance on 4 engines is considered. The math only works on routes so capacity constrained that the cost premium is justified, and there aren’t many.

  11. The ones losing money here are European taxpayers who subsidise Airbus heavily! Not that I’m complaining though as there’s plenty of positive benefits that comes from this subsidy that drives technological progress in the aviation industry more generally

  12. @Andy, thanks! I found this https://www.opshots.net/2015/04/aircraft-operating-series-aircraft-operating-expenses/ and while I don’t know how credible of a source it is, if those figures are anything to go by, then I can very well understand why Finnair doesn’t operate an A380 even if they could fill it easily and with good ticket prices. A rough estimate is, an A380 equals 3.5 A330s…

    Now I’m just wondering how any airline out there can afford to operate an A380…

  13. Any idea when Singapore is going to announce their retrofit schedule? Seems to have gone quiet …

  14. This really should come as no surprise; even before the A380 went into commercial service, there was plenty of talk in the late 90s/early 00s about the desire for non-stop, point-to-point service (hence, 787).

    Call me a skeptic, but I’m pretty much convinced the A380 went forward because Airbus wanted to earn the bragging rights for having built the world’s largest passenger jet. (Playing the proverbial “mine is bigger than yours” game with Boeing.)

    Sorry, but the A380 was destined for failure before it ever got off the ground, and lots of people know this is true. But when you have a chance at pursuing the beauty queen who’s totally out of your league because he/she swiped right on you, you pursue it. More often than not, though, you end up with a block because they were just teasing you.

    Sorry Airbus, should have swiped left on this so-called hottie. (Because she’s *so not* compared to other passenger aircraft.)

  15. Bottom line here – these SQ 380 are two of the original build. Nobody wants to pick up a couple of the first built units.

  16. Lol I knew this would open up the good old A v B debate. Lucky often looking like a Boeing fan.

    Some of the Boeing fan boy comments make me laugh. Let’s just agree both Boeing and Airbus make great aircraft.

    Disappointing in a way to see @Lucky only get to the real reason for the scrapping at the end of the article.

  17. I love how there are so many people commenting who clearly have spent more time outside than inside this plane. If it were all about beauty, why doesn’t anyone here say bring back the Concorde?

    If you have even been in an A380 (especially the upper deck) you won’t miss the noisy, cramped, dry 747 interior. There really is no comparison. Go to the boneyard and stare at your rotting 747s, but the sad thing here is from a passenger standpoint we are the ones that are losing out because the A380 beats many models in active service (eg. the 777, especially with 3-4-3 Y).

  18. Our only experience with the A380 was horrible . It was with Korean . Supposed to be business class but was changed to coach “Take it or leave it .” Crammed in like sardines , broken seats did not recline , ran out of first and second meal choice . No one has seemed to mention that it takes a long time for 4-500 people to enter and exit the plane . You just become part of the seething masses. People should not be treated this shabbily .
    I hope they scrap all of them.

  19. Now appears to be no economy seats on the A380 service between LHR – SIN. Is this a result of this scrappage programme?

  20. They haven’t scrapped any aircraft they are utilising. They are the two of the original five that SQ leased, which have now been returned and replaced with new planes.

  21. The real numbers to look at are sales of the 777-300ER. At over 800, it exceeds the combined total sales for all variants of the 747 sold since the year 2000, the total for A340-600¹, and the A380.

    ¹Emirates alone has bought more -300ER’s than the entire A340-600/-500 production run.

  22. I love flying the Airbus A-380
    I feel it is a very quiet and stable aircraft

    I know the A-380 only makes a business profit when flying full-house-long-haul

    After they are scrapped for parts, I would like to see the airframe display inside aviation museums or other creative destination

  23. Kelvin , of course I can blame the aircraft . I am not required to be rational . However I partially agree with you . The problems stemmed from terrible treatment by Korean but , was compounded by the aircraft . It will need to be one heck of deal before I will fly on an A380 ever again . Same goes double for Korean .

  24. @JT – interesting points but I will not be missing the A380, having flown on them a significant amount. The comfort of the 787 and the 350 surpass that provided by the A380 for me. Both the twin-engined are quiet, smooth (especially the 787-10), and especially comfortable since I feel fresh after a long journey on them.

  25. @dalo I don’t think Korean would switch a business-class passenger to coach on A380. KE A380 is the most C-class heavy(91 seats) and KE has hard time selling those seats even to most premium-heavy destinations such as LAX/JFK. Actually KE A380 gives you one of the best chances for involuntary upgrades(also called op-up) since most of the time economy class is overbooked and there are dozens of empty business class seats around.
    I don’t buy dalo’s comment at all.

  26. Jay , actually I did not expect to get switched either . It was made plain : “You can sit in coach or you can just stay here in ICN . ” You can choose what you believe . I know what happened . If it makes a difference this was a SkyMiles ticket although that was not mentioned as a reason .

  27. Worst ever experience was a 16 hour disaster in Y on Emirates DXB-DFW. Everything was horrible – seat width, seat pitch and the food was a disaster.

    Good riddance 380

  28. The word was that one reason why Airbus backed Concorde’s 2003 Retirement was that they wanted to focus on the A380 launch. Concorde was getting old, but may had 2 years left when it was retired. I am not sympathetic to the A380’s demise.

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