China Southern Retiring Airbus A380 Fleet

China Southern Retiring Airbus A380 Fleet

21

The pandemic has been terrible for the Airbus A380, as several airlines decided to retire their super jumbos. Unfortunately you can now add another airline to that list…

China Southern’s A380s ending service

China Southern will be the latest airline to retire its Airbus A380 fleet. The Guangzhou-based airline has five A380s in its fleet, which it took delivery of between 2011 and 2013. The planes were initially ordered in 2005, and China Southern was the only Chinese carrier to order the jet.

Two of the Airbus A380s (with the registration codes B-6136 and B-6137) are currently enroute from Guangzhou, China (CAN), to Victorville, California (VCV), where they’ll presumably be retired. It’s expected that the remaining three A380s will be retired in 2022 as well.

The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger jet in the world, and China Southern’s Airbus A380s feature a total of 506 seats. This includes eight first class seats, 70 business class seats, and 428 economy class seats.

Historically China Southern has flown Airbus A380s primarily from Guangzhou to Amsterdam, Beijing, Los Angeles, and Sydney. Some may recall my 2014 China Southern first class flight from Los Angeles to Guangzhou… #DucDeParis

China Southern’s A380 first class

Why couldn’t China Southern make the A380 work?

Unfortunately the Airbus A380 hasn’t worked out nearly the way Airbus hoped, and production on the aircraft has already ended. With the world population continuing to grow, and with demand for air travel continuing to increase, you’d think there would be demand for such a large jet. That’s especially true for China, which has the world’s largest population.

The reality is that China Southern was struggling to make the A380 work pre-pandemic, and that’s even more challenging now:

  • China’s international borders continue to remain largely closed, and the country has a quarantine requirement; unlike other countries, there’s no indication of restrictions being lifted anytime soon
  • For many airlines, cargo has proven to be lucrative during the pandemic; unfortunately while the A380 is efficient in terms of the number of passengers it can carry, it isn’t at all efficient in terms of cargo capabilities
  • Airplanes like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 have proven much more popular with airlines; they’re lower capacity and still fuel efficient, making the planes easier to fill, which is more important than ever before

Unfortunately I’m not at all surprised to see China Southern retiring its A380 fleet. If anything, I’m surprised it took this long.

The 777 will soon be China Southern’s largest aircraft

Bottom line

China Southern will become the latest airline to retire the A380, as the airline will get rid of its fleet of five super jumbos. The planes are an average of around 10 years old, so it’s sad to see them retired so early. Then again, with China’s ongoing travel restrictions, it’s anyone’s guess when there will be enough demand to warrant flying these planes again.

Are you surprised to see China Southern retiring its A380s?

Conversations (21)
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  1. Russell Davies Guest

    China Southern has been flying an A380 CAN- MEL for the past year, it's a weekly sevice

  2. Dan Guest

    Sorry lucky but you’re wrong. The a380 was extremely profitable in the LAX-CAN route pre-pandemic It’s unfortunate that COVID happened and the geopolitic situation started rolling. It was operating daily between LAX and CAN and I can firmly say that it was at full capacity majority of the time. They even had a 777 operating every odd days to meet demand.

    But for CZs sake they are owned by the government so even if...

    Sorry lucky but you’re wrong. The a380 was extremely profitable in the LAX-CAN route pre-pandemic It’s unfortunate that COVID happened and the geopolitic situation started rolling. It was operating daily between LAX and CAN and I can firmly say that it was at full capacity majority of the time. They even had a 777 operating every odd days to meet demand.

    But for CZs sake they are owned by the government so even if they are losing at a big loss, it won’t affect their overall business.

    1. Victor Olapojoye Guest

      It is unfortunate that no one is looking to deploy a380s in Africa. The problem of suitable airports aside. The hub and spoke model can still work in Africa to deliver cheap intercontinental flights, and the a380 is built for this model. For instance, if an airline stations an a380 in West African country and pulls in passengers from other WA countries, and from East and Central Africa. Such airline can deliver lower prices than, say, United.

  3. Jkjkjk Guest

    This is probably one of the immediate results of HSR investment. Without HSR (a high capacity mode of transportation), A380 could’ve worked for domestic travel in China.

    How else would you transport 1.4 billion people on largest human migration in the world in span of 3 weeks?
    Either an A380 or a 16-car high speed train. Also what’s the lifecycle/flight cycle of A380 again? That number is very small in years if used in domestic short haul

  4. Pierre Guest

    Buying 5 A380s never was about making it work. Like everything in China, it was about learning everything there is to learn about a new product, dissecting it and, where possible, coming up with a competing cheaper product which will be offered directly against the manufacturer from which they bought originally.

    In the same vein, China Southern (again... ) has just bought 2 (TWO !!!) A 319 Neo, for which by the way they are...

    Buying 5 A380s never was about making it work. Like everything in China, it was about learning everything there is to learn about a new product, dissecting it and, where possible, coming up with a competing cheaper product which will be offered directly against the manufacturer from which they bought originally.

    In the same vein, China Southern (again... ) has just bought 2 (TWO !!!) A 319 Neo, for which by the way they are the original customer.

    How does a country of 1.4 billion people expect to manage profitably a sub-fleet of 2 aircraft ? It makes no sense unless it is precisely to learn and copy (which by the way is nothing wrong, just smart).

    As to whether Airbus should have sold them to China, that's another matter but I guess it is tough to refuse this to one of your best customers, especially when there is an Airbus assembly line in the country.

    Was it Lenin who said that "The capitalists are so stupid that they will sell us the rope to hang them"?

  5. derek Guest

    Lucky should boycott all airlines of the People's Republic of China and stop writing articles about them until they promise not to invade Taiwan. We now know that communist bullies invade countries, like Russia did Ukraine. They did it in 2014 and they are doing it bigger in 2022.

    1. kimshep Guest

      Gee, thank you Derek ... so what do we do when countries like the USA invade Vietnam, or middle Eastern countries (just to mention a few)?
      I am not in favour of what is happening currently in Russia or mainland China, but that doesn't give you a free pass to make pronouncements on what the owner of this website 'should' do to appease your political theology..
      The utter tripe that gets posted here sometimes is truly astounding.

    2. Hossein Farman Guest

      Love the aircraft, too bad it's mismanaged and misused. Some other countries will be happy to purchase them for cheap

    3. Paul Guest

      You seem to forget a few things from history. Bush had UN approval to act. Bush was wrong and should be a war criminal, but he had international approval and you can say that in America. China steals almost everything and breaks its commitments constantly. The USA did not invade Vietnam. Look to the north of Vietnam to see the real problem. China is an authoritarian government that builds concentration camps. Maybe one day you...

      You seem to forget a few things from history. Bush had UN approval to act. Bush was wrong and should be a war criminal, but he had international approval and you can say that in America. China steals almost everything and breaks its commitments constantly. The USA did not invade Vietnam. Look to the north of Vietnam to see the real problem. China is an authoritarian government that builds concentration camps. Maybe one day you will be put in a concentration camp and then you will understand what is wrong with modern china. Do you still have your organs? How about a nice 500 dollar a month job. Some people are so thick. China is at war with the USA and apologists keep pretending it is not true. Just like the Wuhan lab.

    4. YourWuMao Guest

      Derek got triggered…
      China will get Taiwan back. If ROC wanted independence so badly, they should’ve won the civil war back in the days.

      There’s only one USA, one German, one Vietnam now (and the winner of the war gained control). Same will happen with one China. Even the confederates admitted defeat and there’s only one USA. Government of ROC should be ashamed of themselves.

      And Derek. Stop policing the world. You have no moral high grounds to lecture anyone.

  6. michael duff Guest

    why is the chinese getting rid a380s
    they’re are not old enough so why
    is the chinese government are
    wasting money the 747s have been going for years now and they are still
    going i love them planes the 380s

    1. Steven Guest

      Air China is the sole operator for 747 passenger plane in China. As the only flag carrier in China, it has a dominant position in the Beijing market, where there is a high percentage of business and government travellers, and they have all the premium international routes where A380 would typically work. That's why they can do more comfortably with their 747s.

      However, for China Southern, its home airport is Guangzhou where customers are more...

      Air China is the sole operator for 747 passenger plane in China. As the only flag carrier in China, it has a dominant position in the Beijing market, where there is a high percentage of business and government travellers, and they have all the premium international routes where A380 would typically work. That's why they can do more comfortably with their 747s.

      However, for China Southern, its home airport is Guangzhou where customers are more price sensitive and they have long struggled to get premium international routes from Beijing.

  7. Omer Guest

    You state that China Southern was the only Chinese carrier to order the A380, but doesn't China Eastern also have A380s in their fleet?

    1. dfw88 Guest

      No, they don't and they never have

    2. Omer Guest

      My bad! got the liveries mixed up!

  8. Niko_jas Guest

    Can't believe it was 2014 when you did the China Southern First review! Time has marched on! Hoping 2022 has some equally entertaining reviews!

  9. Motion to Dismiss Member

    I remember your China Southern first class fondly, and I cackle internally thinking about it.

    I think it’s time (when China opens) to review their 777 first and business class! I wonder what Champagne they’re serving now?

    1. Wally Guest

      Population 1.4 billion and they can't make money on the A380? What a complete utter shambles!

    2. Antarius Guest

      No one is making money with an a380. There's a reason such vanity projects have met an early demise.

    3. Steven Guest

      China Southern removed first class in their 777 fleet a few years back. With the A380 retiring, they won't be offering first class at all.

      As for the champagne, after the post of Lucky, they have improved a lot compared to themselves. The current champagne brand you will find in business class is Piper-Heidsieck.

      As a Chinese myself and many of my colleagues and friends, we would find the Chinese menu offered by China...

      China Southern removed first class in their 777 fleet a few years back. With the A380 retiring, they won't be offering first class at all.

      As for the champagne, after the post of Lucky, they have improved a lot compared to themselves. The current champagne brand you will find in business class is Piper-Heidsieck.

      As a Chinese myself and many of my colleagues and friends, we would find the Chinese menu offered by China Southern the best of the big 3. I have never tried their western menu, but heard it's not quite appetizing.

  10. Mike O. Guest

    Were they even able to fill them up? I think now more carriers are transitioning from capacity to a frequency model. With that being said, Asiana should be next to retire theirs especially if the merger with Korean goes through.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Steven Guest

Air China is the sole operator for 747 passenger plane in China. As the only flag carrier in China, it has a dominant position in the Beijing market, where there is a high percentage of business and government travellers, and they have all the premium international routes where A380 would typically work. That's why they can do more comfortably with their 747s. However, for China Southern, its home airport is Guangzhou where customers are more price sensitive and they have long struggled to get premium international routes from Beijing.

3
Dan Guest

Sorry lucky but you’re wrong. The a380 was extremely profitable in the LAX-CAN route pre-pandemic It’s unfortunate that COVID happened and the geopolitic situation started rolling. It was operating daily between LAX and CAN and I can firmly say that it was at full capacity majority of the time. They even had a 777 operating every odd days to meet demand. But for CZs sake they are owned by the government so even if they are losing at a big loss, it won’t affect their overall business.

1
Steven Guest

China Southern removed first class in their 777 fleet a few years back. With the A380 retiring, they won't be offering first class at all. As for the champagne, after the post of Lucky, they have improved a lot compared to themselves. The current champagne brand you will find in business class is Piper-Heidsieck. As a Chinese myself and many of my colleagues and friends, we would find the Chinese menu offered by China Southern the best of the big 3. I have never tried their western menu, but heard it's not quite appetizing.

1
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