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
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.
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.