Hi Fly’s A380 Has Only Operated Two Commercial Flights Since September

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Last year, Portugese charter airline Hi Fly took possession of an ex-Singapore Airlines A380. This was interesting for a number of reasons, namely because it was the first ‘second hand’ A380 to commence flying for a second carrier, and Hi Fly retains Singapore Airlines’ seating and configuration.

For a charter airline that was expected to use the plane largely for operating flights on behalf of low cost carriers, it represented a huge upgrade for some passengers.

Hi Fly initially operated flights for Thomas Cook, and then some London to New York flights for Norwegian, which caused huge punctuality issues, as JFK could not handle another A380 during the time period Norwegian was scheduled to depart.

The Hi Fly A380 was then scheduled to operate flights for Air Austral from Paris to Reunion Island.


That was back in August and September 2018.

So what has the aircraft been doing since then?

Well, not that much, it turns out.

The plane did spend some time in Toulouse for maintenance and repairs following some minor damage sustained during an Air Austral charter in Paris.

The flights to ‘Beja’ listed above are where the plane seems to rest when not being used — it’s Hi Fly’s base, as well as apparently the only airport in Portugal that can handle an A380 — I suspect this quirk was one of the reasons Hi Fly decided to take on the second hand A380.

It seems like the only revenue/charter flights the aircraft has operated since September 18, almost four months ago, was a single London to New York JFK rotation for Norwegian. The return was on Christmas Eve, which I suspect would have been a very busy travel period as people try and make it home for the Christmas period.

So why the low utilisation of such an expensive asset?

The plane did spend almost two months in Toulouse — I’m not sure if the maintenance and (minor) repairs actually took that long, or if they kept it there longer than needed as there was no charter flights for the plane to operate.

But outside that period there have still been many weeks (well over a month) where the plane has not operated any flights.

Hi Fly’s business, in Europe at least, is seasonal. Travel during the European winter is greatly reduced. It’s when many other airlines perform routine maintenance on their aircraft before the busy northern summer.

Hi Fly presumably did the math as to how many flights each year this aircraft needs to operate to break even.

But they also have an expensive asset that’s spending almost all its time on the ground.

During the northern summer, especially during August, when so many Europeans take their summer holidays, I would expect the demand for this huge aircraft to be, well, huge.

It will be interesting to see if they can reach the sort of utilisation hours each day for this aircraft that other A380 operators would expect to have, and operate flights every single day for weeks on end.

Bottom line

Noting the unexpected minor repairs in Toulouse, I’m fascinated to know if the low demand for this aircraft during the past few months fits in with Hi Fly’s plans, or if they are left with a very expensive asset that no one really wants to hire.

If there was no demand from late September until late December, I would be surprised if there was much demand during January and February, as these are two of the quietest travel months of the year in Europe.

I’ll keep an eye on the aircraft’s movements once we get closer to summer to see just how seasonal their business is.

If they eventually decide it’s no longer economically viable for them to keep such a large aircraft, there’s little demand for a third hand A380 given two other Singapore Airlines A380s are being scrapped as we speak.

Do you think Hi Fly will keep their A380 long term?

  1. And for the one commercial return flight it did operate (after just sitting around at Baja), it managed to arrive late to London, and subsequently the flight was delayed by 2.5 hours – WTH?

  2. I’d imagine they got a steal on this plane and can certainly operate it sparingly over the next few years to turn a profit. By not operating it during the slow months, they don’t have to perform expensive maintenance as frequently.

  3. The B747-800 was a minor modification that was meant to get the last drop of what was already a cash cow. The A380 is a dead cow from day one.

  4. @majik
    Jackie’s a jerk and obviously trolling. But to his/her point, total orders 747: 1568. Total orders A380: 331.

  5. FYI – The latest version of the Boeing 747 is officially designated as 747-8i for the passenger model and 747-8F for the cargo model.

    The “i” stands for “Intercontinental”.

    There is NO 747-800 model as Boeing switched to a different numbering sequence for its latest generation of aircraft when the 787-8 first entered service, followed by the 747-8, 787-9, the 737-8, 737-9 and 787-10 all now in service, too.

    The 737-10 (the largest in that model’s series), 777-9 and 777-8 are the other Boeing models that no longer use “dash” designations in the hundreds going forward.

  6. Does it really matter – at least as far as HiFly is concerned – especially if it’s on a power-by the hour contract which (for the engines at least) seems very likely? It’s only ever going to get AOG work because there’s not much chance of another carrier programming long-term A380 work for one unit. HiFly know that I’m sure and have factored that in. Rumour suggests it has a Hajj contract later this year, which does fit the bill. The Portuguese ACMI has a well-recognised modus operandi – it acquires aircraft very cheaply, often flies them sparingly, and then dumps them when they need a heavy check. It’ll last two or three years and then they’ll park it, it’ll be parted out, and HiFly will get another one with hours on the clock before a heavy mx input.

  7. The Xmas JFK was an additional flight to clear the backlog following the drone closures at Gatwick, Virgin had a Wamos 747 operating as well

  8. I’m sure Emirates and other A380 operators are looking at the secondary/charter market very closely…Emirates is all in on the plane with potentially no secondary market. If Hi-Fly can’t make it work then odds are no one will. Emirates’ only real hope is that their leases include a return to Airbus. I know very little of any of this, but the high level doesn’t look good.

  9. Pardon my ignorance, but are there any A380 cargo aircraft out there? If not, why not? Can passenger aircraft be converted?

  10. @ Marty – I’m not an expert either but I’m guessing the A380 is the wrong shape for maximum cargo?

  11. @Marty,

    The 747 gets all the cargo orders because it can offer a hinged nose for loading large cargo (this was the idea behind the “hump” and the upper deck in the fist place). By putting the cockpit on the lower deck Airbus essentially gave up on the idea of making it a usable heavy-lift cargo aircraft.

  12. @Marty: at one point there was plans for an A380F but they were scrapped, if I’m not mistaken there was even orders for the freighter version at one point.

  13. Hi Fly did not buy the A380 just because they are based at the only A380 capable airport in Portugal. That makes no sense whatsoever – I do question your thought process sometimes!

    Unless you’re saying that they wanted an A380 but wouldn’t have gotten one if it couldn’t be flown to their base. In which case, well duh!

  14. Does it really matter if the A380 has a few months of downtime? Hi Fly wouldn’t have paid much and this would be the perfect plane for seasonal high-volume charter use. Charter airplanes often spend most of their time parked.

  15. @Callum
    James stated “I suspect this quirk was one of the reasons Hi Fly decided to take on the second hand A380.”

    Nowhere did James say hi fly bought the 380 just because the airport could handle that aircraft. You should question your own reading comprehension first.

  16. Oh JACKIE so us Europeans have come up with many dumb ideas over our long and amazing history mmmmmm let me think what the Greek’s invented & came up with??? Then the Romans – oh and the British Industrial Revolution!!! And don’t forget who actually invented the jet engine! Oh yes Mr Whittle was European!! #dumb&ignorant

  17. Johannes – Badly phrased on my part I agree, but some basic common sense would have told you that’s not what I meant.

    It played NO part in them buying the A380. Unless you can give a single logical reason why Lisbon or Faro being A380 capable would have any effect whatsoever on the decision?

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