Emirates A380s Being Retired And Used For Parts

Filed Under: Emirates

Earlier this year some big announcements were made regarding the future of the Airbus A380. Emirates has been by far the world’s biggest supporter of the A380, as they’ve ordered over 120 of them, and currently have over 110 in their fleet.

Unfortunately they seemed to be the only airline where the A380 economics made sense, though they realized that they couldn’t singlehandedly keep the aircraft type alive forever, and it was time to develop a new plan.

So we learned that Emirates will take delivery of their last A380 in 2021, and then we also learned that Emirates will retire their last A380s somewhere around 2035 (meaning they’ll have flown for somewhere around 15 years).

Emirates has just revealed some more interesting details to FlightGlobal about the future of the A380. Some of these updates aren’t surprising, while some are.

Emirates Already Taking A380s Out Of Service And Using Them For Parts

Emirates President Tim Clark has confirmed that they’ve already deactivated two Airbus A380s, and are parking them at Dubai World Central. This isn’t just a temporary thing, but rather these planes won’t ever operate commercial flights again. Why?

“They are under retirement because we’ve got a major overhaul coming up and it’s best to take the old aircraft out – they’re all written down – and take the gear off them rather than buy a $25 million main landing gear. I need two, possibly three, to meet that [overhaul] requirement.”

This makes sense, but wow… Emirates will essentially be using A380s for parts. I’m sure the math makes sense when you consider the cost of an overhaul plus how much they’d otherwise have to spend on landing gears for other planes.

But still, to see fairly new A380s being used for parts is quite interesting.

Emirates A380Emirates A380

Emirates Won’t Install New First Class On A380s

Emirates has an incredible new first class product, though it’s available exclusively on select Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Emirates’ new 777-300ER first class

Emirates had initially said that at some point in the future they were going to install their new first class on these planes, though they’ve now backtracked on that:

While Emirates has made some very minor adjustments, presumably this means they’ll have the same first class product for about 27 years (from 2008 through 2035 — wow!).

Emirates’ A380 first class

Emirates’ Expected A380 Fleet Size

While Emirates will have taken delivery of a total of 123 A380s (between 2008 and 2021), how many should we actually expect to see flying?

  • The fleet will stabilize at around 115 aircraft over the coming years, so we’ll see them take delivery of a few more, and also retire a few
  • By around 2025, the fleet will be down to 90-100 aircraft
  • A380s will still be around until 2035, though in smaller quantities

There’s No Secondhand A380 Demand

Emirates leases some of their A380s, while they own others. So what happens to these planes when they retire? Clark knows there isn’t really secondhand demand for the planes, and doesn’t care what happens to them:

“Clearly, the demand in the secondhand market isn’t there. So when we’ve got the life out of the aircraft that we had planned – in fact we’re extending them by a couple of years – we’re indifferent to what happens to them in the sense that we don’t have any value left in them and we don’t have to take any write-downs.”

For A380s that Emirates owns, the planes could be used for parts to support the existing fleet. So it could be that at some point down the road Dubai World Central basically becomes a parts department for Emirates A380s, as they slowly disassemble.

Emirates A380 Summary

Emirates has experienced the most success with the A380, but even they can’t make them work forever. So while we can expect to see these planes in Emirates’ fleet for another 15 (or so) years, they’ll also start retiring some A380s and using them for parts. That sure will be interesting to see…

Comments
  1. The airline that I’m most surprised didn’t make a big go with the A380 is British Airways. The ingredients were all there- huge O&D market, connection hub, and severely congested and slot restricted airport. I guess they made the calculation that smaller aircraft with greater frequencies was what worked for them.

    Also, while we’re lamenting the twilight of the A380, the 747-8 has had even less traction. The difference is it wasn’t a completely new plane.

    No love for the 4-engined birds 🙁

  2. It is clear to me that the a380 isn’t as profitable with Emirates as the airline claims it to be.
    They likely got huge discounts for their huge a380 orders, and were said behind the scenes to be unhappy with the in service fuel economy of the recently delivered superjumbos.

  3. Delta bought one or two 777s for the same purpose: spare parts. It’s really pretty common in the industry. In the long run it saves a lot of money.

  4. I can’t imagine them using the same First Class product for that long. To me, it looks like they’ll retire First Class and just convert A380’s to 3 class planes namely Economy, Prem Economy and Business Class.

    Will be a sad day when we can’t aspire to First Class flights anymore!

  5. Let’s be honest… nothing in the airline industry is more of a gimmick than Emirates’ new First Class given how few aircraft have it and by the sounds of it, will ever have!

  6. The 380 is the most comfortable long haul product in all cabins. Its size makes the skies smoother and a more open interior to stretch out in.

    I recently flew BA’s 380 and can’t believe how they ruined the aircraft as it feels much more cramped. Their business class doesn’t have a bar and no showers in first class. I have no idea why they didn’t configure them like Emirates as the seat count is similar.

    With congested airports such as LHR, JFK etc I can’t believe that this aircraft didn’t do well and solve some of those problems.

  7. I disagree that Emirates can’t make the A380 work…that’s just a partial statement. A big part of the problem Emirates is having is that Airbus isn’t putting any resources into the project any longer. New engine? Nope. If there were more airlines invested in the A380 then I think it would be a different story since Airbus would then put time and money into continuing the project.

    Is there a cargo market for the A380?

  8. Greg,

    I’m sure BA looked into gimmicks like showers and a bar, but rejected them for the same reason almost every other airline has rejected the idea – it’s not cost effective.

    Virgin also toyed with the idea, and some other even more outlandish ideas like a hot-tub.

  9. @Robert there is very little cargo market for the A380 because the floor between decks can’t support cargo. So it could theoretically be re-engineered to have one giant cargo compartment for oversize freight transport, but that’s definitely a specialty service as opposed to something a standard freight carrier is going to want dozens of copies of in their fleet.

  10. @ Tom

    I think a small fitness center would be awesome … the trouble is fitness equipment is quite heavy (costly to fly) and it would be hard to allocate among pax unless it were first class only. ULH flights are miserable and a 30 minute jog or elliptical would be awesome to keep moving. Even a fold up treadmill where you could also practice yoga would be great. It would make the luxury of having showers on board that much cooler if you could start your day by working out and then showering…

  11. The airline is a whole gimmick.
    They market the experience as if they have fully enclosed first class suites, showers, bars and a business class with the new design style all on one plane.
    I wonder how many planes will ever get the new first class suite…

  12. Emirates business model – bulk transfer traffic through Dubai – feels to me like a temporary proposition.

    Who now can name the seaplane stations used in the 30s to the 50s? Big business back in the day, long forgotten now. Just like the mid-way refuelling airports for transatlantic travel.

    It’s not the poor performance of the A380 that threatens Emirates, it’s the ultra-long-range 787s and 350s. When a direct London-Sydney flight launches, you can start the countdown to Emirates’ extinction.

  13. Good to know thank you. I was hoping to fly on one of the EK A380s that has the new seat but will now just focus on flying on one of the new EK 777s to experience it.

  14. @justin – great point, hadn’t thought about the floor. Seems like a lot of effort to make it work. It’s a shame there aren’t more valid uses for the plane.

  15. Market conditions will change in the coming years to where the A380 could become the hot thing on the market.

    This happened before with the MD90, not a massive seller in its day, but then all of a sudden airlines wanted it badly, years down the road. The 757. Suddenly there was demand but it was too late.

    Things change.

  16. The A380 was a problematic formula from its beginning in the 1990. The world wanted point-to-point travel, not hub-and-spoke. Emirates had a unique long-haul hub need, and knowing the Airbus desire to surpass Boeing, convinced Airbus to build a plane larger than the 747, on which Clark could lavish all manner of amenities.
    But the industry knew the four-engined aircraft was a dead concept. Twin-engine aircraft were dominant, and continued to improve the economics of long-range point-to-point travel with each new model.
    Worse, the A380 wing was designed for a future stretch of about 70 feet. But that investment never came, and the deadend nature of the A380 became clear. Thus, Clark’s call for more efficient engines for a dead airframe made no sense to Airbus…and they have wisely started the winddown.
    We sometimes forget that one of the biggest sources of profit for airlines in belly cargo. The 777X offers more 2-3 times more paying cargo space than the A380.
    Case closed. Once again, we see hubris causing wasted resources.
    This infopinion is from 2009:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9fcf84905793be8deb8ff506c339db5d882550a9344eef591f806d022424d43e.jpg

  17. I think the title of this article is a little click bait-y. It makes it sound like all the 380’s are being grounded and used for parts. This isn’t a 737 MAX situation.
    The article itself is well written and balanced. And explains the situation well. Thanks, Lucky.

    I still don’t know why the 380 end of production and life articles are trying to promote doom and gloom. I love the 380 as well. And Emirates made it a wonderful flying experience, even in Economy. But full retirement in 2035? Their first 380’s started flying in 2005 according to Google. A thirty year period for Emirates to fly these great planes isn’t some flash in the pan situation. I’ll be a senior citizen by time Emirates removes the 380. Is it a shame that there won’t be 380’s forever? Sure I will miss them too. But it’s not like you won’t be able to fly on any for at least the next decade. And don’t forget other top airlines like Singapore, Etihad, Qatar, Korean still fly theirs too.
    And who knows what passenger aviation will be like in 2035? Maybe ME and Asian carriers like EK and SQ will be legally allowed to operate totally within the Americas, and embarrass and put the US Big 3 out of business. I would prefer that over a 380 any time.

  18. @Lucky – The First Class Suites were introduced back in 2002 when Emirates was received its first A340-500 which means they’ll have the same F Class product for around 33 years!

  19. I really love the A380 F seats and shower. Sad it’ll eventually phase out. I guess all good thing must come to an end. I hope I get to try the new 777 F soon before they start to eliminate F class.

  20. re: When a direct London-Sydney flight launches, you can start the countdown to Emirates’ extinction.

    I don’t know– Emirates will offer cheaper options I bet, so you’ll get may be J class shift toward Qantas but Y will still fill Emirates’ seats.

  21. How many 737-MAX engines would an a380 need? (6?) Seems like they are efficient, but don’t fit well on a 737 according to the news lots of spare parts currently.

  22. Maybe Qantas could take a few off their hands if the price is right. They have no ‘spares’ and run their smallish fleet tightly. They have one or two which are ‘A380 lemons’, going tech. far too often throwing their worldwide schedule into chaos every time, with many disgruntled passengers every time.

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