Singapore Airlines Is Getting Rid Of Their First A380

About a decade ago the A380 seemed like the next great thing that would change aviation. Unfortunately over time that perception has changed, and aside from Emirates, most airlines flying the A380 don’t seem very pleased with it. For a couple of years there has been speculation that Airbus would discontinue the A380 program, given the lack of new orders.

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The simple problem is that the A380 is the highest capacity plane in the sky, so there aren’t that many routes where it can be flown in a profitable manner. Also over the past few years we’ve seen the 787 and A350 become more popular; arguably those planes are the real game changers. These are efficient, long range, fairly low capacity aircraft that most airlines can operate much more profitably.

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So while Emirates loves their A380s, other airlines would prefer to operate more versatile and fuel efficient planes.

At the moment the second largest customer of the A380 is Singapore Airlines, which has a total of 19 of the superjumbo aircraft in their fleet, which another five aircraft on order.

Singapore Airlines’ first five A380s were acquired on a 10 year lease deal, the first of which runs out next year. For a while there has been a lot of speculation as to whether or not Singapore Airlines would renew their A380 leases, with most people thinking that they would.

Well, it looks like Singapore Airlines won’t be renewing the lease on their first A380 aircraft. The first lease is up next October, so you can expect they’ll return the first plane around then. Singapore Airlines will decide later on whether or not they want to renew the leases on the other four planes. Per the WSJ:

Brendan Sobie, an analyst at CAPA Center for Aviation, expects Singapore Airlines to return all five of the early A380 jets in its fleet. “Their fleet plan and strategy has always been to replace those aircraft. Early model airplanes come with limitations and Singapore Airlines never wanted to be stuck with remarketing these five airplanes,” Mr. Sobie said.

Initial-production jets are generally less popular with airlines as they are heavier and often come with teething problems as manufacturers work out kinks.

Indeed, the earliest model A380s are slightly heavier than the more recently built ones, so it’s not surprising that they’re less desirable. Furthermore, the airline does have an aggressive fleet renewal plan, with a total of 62 A350 and 30 787-10 aircraft on order, so they’ll be able to grow plenty without keeping the A380 around.

Nonetheless this creates an interesting situation, as we’ll now see a used A380 on the market. Is there an airline that wants to take over some of the first A380s to be produced? On one hand Airbus is already struggling to sell the A380, though on the other hand I imagine an airline could get a really good deal on these planes, given that they’re otherwise going to an aircraft graveyard. What a sad sight that would be!

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Bottom line

It’s interesting to see Singapore Airlines return some A380s when they’ll still be taking delivery of five more over the coming years. With Singapore’s order of almost 100 A350s and 787s, I’m not surprised to see them return these early generation A380s.

The really interesting question here is what will happen to these planes now that they’re on the secondhand market. Presumably if an airline is interested they could get a really good deal on it, though even so, flying an A380 profitably could be a challenge.

(Tip of the hat to @JBSteins)

Comments

  1. There have been plenty of second hand A380s for sale already – MH and TG have been trying to sell theirs for some time. The reason this hasn’t been news is because nobody wants to buy them. Airbus can’t sell new ones dirt cheap so who would anyone buy a second hand one.
    Agree it would make a fantastic hotel. If they could tow it somewhere off the runway at Singapore it would make an amazing airport hotel.

  2. @JamesP, Gene:

    Ha!

    Good one. But no. If Delta wanted large planes they could have kept their 744s in service, or picked up more used ones for super cheap.

    A380s work well for EK because they can scissors hub Australia and India markets. They are kinda OK if you’re SQ, LH, BA, AF because you’re really able to flow traffic into a superhub (SIN, FRA, LHR, CDG). But DL doesn’t have anything remotely resembling a superhub: JFK and LAX are fragmented and so you want lots of O/D rather than hub operations, ATL kinda but even that doesn’t work when you have hubs in NYC, DTW, MSP, LAX, SEA to go with it; why would you preferentially flow traffic to ATL on a PDX/SMF-CDG itinerary?

  3. There has been some talk that a small sub fleet of A380s (5-6) would be good for UA to replace the 744 on SFO-Asia routes (I.e. HKG and NRT) so could possibly see that as an option, especially if they use the 773 out of EWR but since they got rid of slots there there is less of a reason to have on high capacity EWR flight vs 2 frequencies.

    I could also see this going to FX or UP as cargo, if they could get it cheap, they cancelled their original A380F orders due to cost. Final option could be something like Atlas to replace their 744s

  4. First airline that came into mind was Delta- I see I’m not the only one! The 744 argument is a good one but it is not taking into account that the A380 offers a larger capacity at a much lower fuel consumption per seat than the B744. That and taking Delta’s recent growth andunique business model could translate into Delta becoming the first US Airline flying the big bird.

  5. Has to be a high traffic price inelastic or landing slot restricted route or someone with oil so Shanghai -LHR or Moscow LAX….

  6. CBS can buy one for the Zoo.

    If RA is still head of DL, he would have bought one in some unknown condition(even without engines) for $10 Million and announce at a big press conference to set future A380 resale value, just to screw EK. He did that with B777 just before retiring.

    Code F is big no no for many airlines
    High maintenance costs,
    High cabin reconfiguration costs, not many can keep SQ/EK interior
    Huge cabin crew requirement (EK apparently has 100 CC per A380, still short)
    Ability to recover trip cost still unclear

  7. Why don’t we all pool together and buy it ourselves? OMAAT Airlines.

    I’ll have it Monday’s and Saturdays as it was my idea…

  8. This was always the gamble so many years ago; point to point or hub to hub. Boeing nailed it with the 787. The question I wonder is how do you make such a decision so far in the future.

  9. Why would they necessarily lose any current routes when they have 5 more on order? I would imagine the new ones would just take over the routes of the abandoned aircraft.

  10. A normal practice for the earliest delivery models of a brand new aircraft. Wonder who would lease it now – won’t be surprised if airlines such as AI, TK or DL take delivery to invest on their growing revenue routes.

  11. Its coming off SIN – AKL . I’m booked for December 7th Business Class so they will probably replace it with the 777-300 they use during our winter months.

  12. Thought I’d throw in my personal experience on the SQ a380 back in July. I flew from SIN-NRT-LAX. The first leg I had an entire row to myself, and the rest of the plane was pretty empty as well. Tokyo to Los Angeles was packed however. I was unable to look into Business Class or Suites Class there were only a few empty seats in economy. I’m honestly surprised that SQ and others are having trouble filling up the a380 given how populated Asia is. I was doubly surprised that they were taking it off the LAX route, ’cause I feel that it is the most well-known flagship a380 route of any airline. I wanted to take my Japanese mother on a trip in Business Class or ideally Suites Class when she retires in a few years. I have to say I’m quite saddened that I won’t be able to take her in SQ Suites to her home country and on to Singapore because she loves that country. Hopefully the SIN-FRA-JFK route will still be around then and we’ll be able to take that back at least.

  13. “Nonetheless this creates an interesting situation, as we’ll now see a used A380 on the market. Is there an airline that wants to take over some of the first A380s to be produced?”

    Haven’t we already seen used A380 on the market with no buyers? No one wanted to buy the A380 MH was unloading when they discontinued the A380 on the KUL/CDG service.

  14. SQ has never kept aircrafts for more than 10 years
    The journalist obviously is not very well informed ! The 5 new 380 on order are to replace the first 5 that next year will be 10 years old

    How stupid are this journalists that have no idea what they talk about

  15. Second largest customer with 19? Last I was in FRA on layover, walking the terminal seemed that I saw a lot of LH A380s. Anyone know LH A380 numbers?

  16. Major step back if it is going to be replaced with a Boeing 777. Those things are much noisier to fly. The 787 is better but still inferior to 340 and 350. Not sure why Boeing has not yet mastered building more silent planes.
    One would think worst case they could copy in case they can’t figure it out themselves.

  17. @ron – Boeing actually has. The GE (especially the GenX) engine noise signatures and the B787 fuselage wind drag numbers are amongst the lowest in the industry. Airbus takes a very different approach to noise dampening by using additional absorbing materials (in case you have wondered why there is such a huge gap between the wall and the exterior of the A380 – tons of noise dampening polymers). As a result, the Airbus aircraft are typically heavier per passenger loading compared to the Boeing aircraft. This is also why the 787 is more fuel efficient than the A350 per person per mile. In conclusion, Boeing incorporates noise mitigation at the source by advancing the technology (active method): wind shear and engine resonance. Airbus focuses more on absorbing the noise (passive method). My preference is for the Boeing and GE methods on addressing the problem at the root rather than trying to put a band-aid on it. RR with their spool designs just do not achieve the same level of noise mitigation as GE does with their GenX.

  18. Iran Air would probably grab them. They were the world’s best airline 1960s and now that the sanctions have been lifted, they would surely go for them. They also have 12 A380s on order and several 30+ years old A300 in their fleet..

  19. @Jared

    Interesting I did not know that. It seems however that the major difference in noise level comes from the cabin pressurization system. Airbus is already a lot more silent even at the gate.

  20. @Ron

    I don’t think the cabin pressurization is on immediately at the gate. To the best of my knowledge (I haven’t worked on an aircraft design for over 25 years now), I believe the pressure is bled slowly during the climb until the value of pressure relative to 6000 ft is reached. At this point, pressurized air is bled into the cabin through the bleed-valves in the engines for Airbus aircraft. For the 787 and 777-9X (to be introduced), the air is compressed, conditioned, humidified and then forced into the cabin (787s do not use air from the engine making the GenX quieter and efficient as a result). Based on my knowledge, the cabin insulation makes the Airbuses quieter. I was pleasantly surprised by the quiet environment on a recent A350 flight although it appears to have be choppier compared to the 787 which I fly on the same route. At the end of the day, a customer doesn’t care if the A350 is archaic compared to the 787 as long as it is more comfortable.

  21. @the aviation fans above

    doesn’t matter how hard Boeing and Airbus try, neither can achieve the sub-47 decibel noise signature and sea-level cabin pressure inside of a Gulstream G650 with their submarine-inspired noise reduction technology and fuselage.

  22. Delta.

    I can’t think of another airline with such a mish-mash of various aircraft types & models. Yes, they get a great deal on them, many of them second-hand, but I do have to wonder about the costs and logistics of maintaining crews for all of the various aircraft they have.

    It also is a bit maddening as a Delta flyer. The experience is soooo inconsistent. I’ll be flying one leg on a beat Mad Dog, only to have the next be on a brand new B739-ER with even power outlets in coach. You can try to hedge your bets when booking, BUT equipment changes can easy screw you. Sometimes you get lucky and can catch an international-equipped widebody with lay-flat seats for a US domestic flight because of it.

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