Will Qatar Airways’ A380 Fleet Ever Fly Again?

Filed Under: Qatar

Planes with four engines are increasingly becoming a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic:

Well, now it seems that another Gulf carrier may be heading in the direction of retiring its A380 fleet, at least based on reading between the lines…

Qatar Airways won’t fly A380 for at least a couple of years

Qatar Airways grounded its 10-strong Airbus A380 fleet back in March, and the airline has gone so far as to attack other airlines for flying the A380 right now, calling it “unethical.”

That being said, we haven’t heard much one way or another about when we should expect the A380 to return to the skies at Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways has a fleet of 10 A380s

Well, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker made some comments about the future of the A380 during FlightGlobal’s Airlines 2050 Conference yesterday. Al Baker said that:

  • Qatar Airways won’t operate its A380s for “at least” the next couple of years (which puts us to late 2022)
  • The growth rate would have to be equivalent to the one in 2019 for the airline to even consider it
  • Even if demand starts to increase, A380s could only be filled “if you dump the price, and once you dump the price, you become unsustainable”

A few more things to note about Qatar Airways’ A380 fleet:

  • Prior to the pandemic, Qatar Airways operated its A380s to Frankfurt, London, Melbourne, Paris, Perth, and Sydney
  • The Doha-based carrier’s A380 fleet is still quite young, with the planes having only been delivered between 2014 and 2018
  • A380s are the only planes that Qatar Airways has that feature long haul first class, though Al Baker also claims that the concept of first class is obsolete
  • Prior to the pandemic, Qatar Airways planned to retire its A380s at the 10 year mark, between 2024 and 2028

Qatar Airways’ A380s feature first class

Why I think Qatar Airways’ A380s may never fly again

Al Baker says it will be at least a couple of years before Qatar Airways flies its A380s again. The reality is that Qatar Airways has a huge number of aircraft on order, including 30 Boeing 787-9s, 50 Boeing 777-9s, and 28 Airbus A350-1000s.

While the airline is trying to defer delivery of as many of these planes as possible, realistically the airline will be getting dozens of new planes per year within a few years:

Qatar Airways has dozens of 777-9s on order

Personally I think it’s more likely than not that Qatar Airways will simply end up retiring its A380 fleet. The airline simply has so many long haul aircraft on order that it’s hard to imagine any sort of growth trajectory where having A380s again would make sense. Never mind the fact that the airline wasn’t particularly happy with A380s even pre-pandemic.

Bottom line

Qatar Airways’ CEO claims the airline won’t fly A380s for at least another couple of years. That’s not surprising, but if that’s the case then it also seems highly likely that the plane just won’t make a return at all.

The airline has over 100 wide body aircraft on order, many of which are to be delivered in the next few years. Even a recovery to 2019 levels won’t be sufficient to sustain A380s — the airline needs huge growth beyond that for the super jumbos to make sense again.

What do you think — is this the end for Qatar Airways’ A380s?

  1. So glad I flew QR A380 (and Korean A380) on points in business back in December; first time flying w/ on-board bar. Gotta thank my 5-yr old son for requesting to go on a plane w/ an “upstairs!”

  2. No.

    The big animals who need to eat lots of small animals and plants always die first during times of sparsity.

  3. I’d be surprised if their A380s fly again*. The Qatari market for 1st class is probably better served by their fleet of private jets (which get everywhere: earlier this year there was even one parked at Norwich (NWI), for a week).

    Qatar had high frequency service on DOH-LHR, and savvy J class travellers would mostly try to choose Qsuites flights over non-Qsuites A380s.

    In the new future world it looks like it might be foolish to chase volumes of low-yielding pax. The future of longhaul belongs to the 787 and A350.

    * The exception might be to ferry large volumes of fans to the World Cup, being held in Qatar in November 2022. That might be a last hurrah for their A380s.

  4. Back in 2015, Qatar had 3x daily A380s from Doha to Bangkok when I was able to enjoy C-class luxury on one of those flights. What a thoroughly different world we’re in now 🙁

  5. QR fly the A380 to Sydney, Melbourne & Perth because the current bilateral agreement between the two governments is only 21 return services to Australia’s 4 largest entry points (the other being Brisbane).
    When things start to settle, surely QR will be in a position to push the Australian government for more air rights just as they have done on the temporary service to BNE. Then they’d happily go double daily to these cities on 777/350 etc. without the need to maximise capacity through the A380

  6. I will take anytime A380 with the Bar vs Qsuite 777/350.

    Had amazing talking and fun with good drink and food at the A380 bar, time passed in one second.

  7. Qatar never really utilized their A380s like other carriers did. From the beginning, they seemed not to know what to do with their A380s, I felt like those planes were more of a burden to them.

  8. Sad for us ‘regular’ economy passengers. The top deck had a mini-economy section (just behind the bar) and it was a great ‘private’ space with service as good as biz class. Flew it a few times on LHR/CDG routes.
    Comparatively, the QR 350 is better than 777 (atleast in economy)

  9. @Christopher Smith
    The airline is a department of the Qatari state so Al Baker is a government minister (he has other government responsibilities, too).

    Worldwide, government ministers (just like ambassadors), are often entitled to the courtesy title of “His Excellency” (though not, I think, in most of the US, where such titles have largely fallen out of favour — though not in *all* the US. I think at least one governor retains the courtesy title).

    British ambassadors, for example, are called “your excellency” whenever they are outside the UK, although not when they are in the UK. In Australia, the title is used by state governors among others.

    I can’t believe my head is full of all this crap.

  10. Most of my qatar airways flights were A380 business class past few years. Was lucky enough to last fly on one in late February this year before they stopped using them. Will surely miss them.

  11. Ironic that this was the airline whose repeated delays of the introduction of its A380 product made for prime-time entertainment in 2014. Not to mention the shift to Hamad.

  12. I think they will send the A380s packing given that they were talking about retiring them in mid 20s even before the pandemic.

  13. So how do we access that amazing lounge in Doha if there are no first class tickets to redeem or purchase? It’s got to be the worlds best lounge that first class lounge !!!
    I suppose we have to now pay for it .

  14. I remember flying the A380 cattle class to BKK and PKT, few years ago.
    The flight s were all economy class and there was a considerable demand at that time. Will see how it goes during the next few months…
    Thailand is a great touristic destination for westerns.

  15. I share the same opinion about what chris said:

    ”I will take anytime A380 with the Bar vs Qsuite 777/350.

    Had amazing talking and fun with good drink and food at the A380 bar, time passed in one second.”

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