Sad: The First A380 Ever Has (Quietly) Been Retired

The A380 had its first commercial flight on October 25, 2007, operating as a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Sydney. This was just under a decade ago, when many of us thought that the A380 would hugely grow in popularity and become one of the most popular planes in the sky, given the growing demand for global air travel.

Unfortunately it hasn’t quite panned out that way, and instead the A380 program is on the verge of being shut down. While the plane has the lowest per seat operating cost of any commercial plane, the problem is that there just aren’t many markets where this plane makes sense. In other words, while operating costs are lower, they’re also having to sell tickets cheaper in order to fill all the seats.

Business travelers value having lots of frequencies to choose from, so airlines would rather operate two smaller planes in a market than one bigger plane. So for now it looks like the A350 and 787 represent the future of widebody travel, while the 737 MAX and A320 NEO represent the future of narrowbody travel.


Singapore Airlines’ A350

Singapore Airlines presently has a fleet of 19 Airbus A380 aircraft, making them the second largest operator of the plane after Emirates. Singapore has some of their A380s on 10 year leases, with another five A380s on order.

Last September we learned that Singapore planned on returning their first A380 when the lease was up this October, and then this May we learned that they’ll be retiring all five of their first A380s as the leases expire. In other words, Singapore’s A380 fleet will remain constant at 19 for now, as they retire five and take delivery of five new ones.

The lease of Singapore’s first A380 expires this October, though FlightGlobal notes that Singapore parked their first ever A380 in June. The plane with the tail number 9V-SKA operated its last commercial flight from London Heathrow to Singapore Changi as SQ317 on June 10, 2017.

While the lease is only up on October 12, 2017, the plane is presently “undergoing de-lease work before returning to the lessor.” It sure seems to me like they may have just taken it out of service a bit early since the economics just weren’t working for them.

The article notes that the leasing company, Dr. Peters Group, is considering parting out the first two A380s that they get back from Singapore Airlines. I know planes don’t actually have feelings (or do they?), but as an aviation geek I almost get teary-eyed at the thought of a gorgeous 10 year old A380 having its wings clipped (maybe I’ve been watching too many videos of talking airplanes). Think of all the friends and families the plane could have still connected, all the Dom vs. Krug taste tests that could have happened, all the people who could have joined the mile high club in Singapore Suites (just kidding), etc.


Singapore’s current A380 Suites Class

If it’s any consolation, Singapore’s upcoming A380s will feature a new Suites Class and business class. The new Suites Class should be one of the most impressive products in the sky. There will just be six Suites on the upper deck, in the same space where Etihad has nine First Class Apartments and The Residence. Eventually the existing A380s will also be reconfigured with this new product.


Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartments, in the same area where Singapore will put their new Suites Class

(Tip of the hat to CR)

Comments

  1. @Derek seems like a pleasant guy. Why do you read the blog if it is so painful for you? The negativity in our country is getting ridiculous..Thanks @GOP!

  2. “This was just under a decade ago, when many of us thought that the A380 would hugely grow in popularity and become one of the most popular planes in the sky…”

    To be fair, Boeing didn’t think that.

  3. Lucky, your picture with the beds and the seat belts look to me like the setting for a double execution. Your photos are usually better

  4. The first A380’s built are problem aircraft. They have special wiring and they are heavier than later build’s. Easy to see why Singapore will go with new build’s rather than keep these 1 off planes. I doubt anyone will pick them up, that is why parting them out makes sense.

  5. I think part of the problem with these first few airframes is that they are much heavier than the later builds and thus less efficient. There are also more problems/issues with the frames than those that were built later and had the benefit of any production kinks resolved. I also believe this might be the first aircraft of its type that is due for a D-check. Airbus will get a lot of valuable data about the performance of this type of aircraft by tearing it down. This is not unique to Airbus however, Boeing had problems selling the first few 787s that were built too…I believe some are parked in the desert and/or donated to museums as no buyers wanted them.

  6. @Daniel

    “To be fair, Boeing didn’t think that.”

    How much did Boeing drop developing the 747-8 which no one wants. If they had used that money to reengine and rewing the 757 (or just returned it to shareholders) they would be in a better position now. So not like Boeing really got this one right either. They just got it much less wrong.

  7. This is interesting. I toured the Airbus plant at Finkenwerder in early August and there was a Singapore Airlines A380 in the plant, however the aircraft did not appear to be new. It was clearly undergoing some work, but I’ve completely forgotten the registration.

  8. @dk – yup, you are right. Early era A380’s are being jettisoned from the fleet.

    @Anna – Also, SQ is notorious for getting rid of perfectly serviceable aircraft in great condition when they start pushing double digits in age (772’s being the exception it seems).

  9. @K – Yes both Boeing and Airbus have 787’s and A-380’s that were never sold. These aircraft have been configured for testing and are not true production models. That is why they are parked in the desert and in museums.

    I doubt Airbus will tear down the returned Singapore A-380. They will be parted out by the owner, which is not Singapore Airlines, and what is not useable will be cut up for scrap metal. This happens to most aircraft at the end of life.

  10. @dk – However there are 787s that are both meant for selling and never were. 787 #10-22 were meant to be sold, however never were delivered due to the fact that they were massively overweight. So technically there are production models that are not sold (although recently Air Austral took a handful due to their cheaper price tag).

  11. @AdamW

    Shut your cake hole, dude. There’s lot of negativity on both sides of the aisle.

    Get stuffed.

  12. I have flown the initial 5 SQ A389 several times. I must say, SQ’s inferior fittings don’t age well, and there are stains on the light colored seats.

    The size of the overhead bins on these initial planes seem too small. I have seen the FA dragging rollers to storage areas because the bin height is too low.

  13. @Lucky can you please comment on the reported problems of the A350s? A mechanical problem that could cause fires…can’t remember exactly. Reuters had an article about it and seem like LH, AY, Cx, SQ and now DL are all aware and taking the necessary steps.

  14. I think we need an A380 hotel. They could put it near JFK without even having to refit it — an SQ economy seat is better than many of the “hotels” near JFK airport.

  15. @J – here are the owners of 787 production 10-22, your info is not correct. They have all been sold and delivered.

    10 ZD003 38464 ET-ATG 787-8 ETH Ethiopian Airlines
    11 ZA841 41987 N507BJ 787-8 KAL Korean Air
    12 ZD004 34505 ET-ATL 787-8 ETH Ethiopian Airlines
    13 ZD005 34492 ET-ATJ 787-8 ETH Ethiopian Airlines
    14 ZD006 34498 ET-ATK 787-8 ETH Ethiopian Airlines
    15 ZD001 34491 F-OLRB 787-8 AUX Air Austral
    16 ZD007 38475 ET-ATH 787-8 ETH Ethiopian Airlines
    17 ZD009 35507 N947BA 787-8 BBJ BBJ
    18 ZD008 34487 ET-ATI 787-8 ETH Ethiopian Airlines
    19 ZD012 35508 VP-CSC 787-8 BBJ BBJ
    20 ZA175 34831 JA821J 787-8 JAL Japan Airlines
    21 ZA176 34833 JA823J 787-8 JAL Japan Airlines
    22 ZD002 34510 F-OLRC 787-8 AUX Air Austral

  16. SIA is selling off their A380’s for a reason. They aren’t making enough money. Have you flown with them before? They charge sometimes double the amount for the same route as other carriers and the service standards have slipped over the years. It’s at the point now where they are asking their aircrew to go on no pay leave as they can’t afford them. Until SIA drops their rates to be more in line with namely the Gulf carriers, they will continue to suffer.

    And the A380 program is not in danger of being shut down. Have you looked at or flown on Emirates lately? They have the largest fleet of A380’s and they are always constantly full.

  17. Good riddance. While these beasts might have been nice on the inside with showers, etc, they are bloody ugly. theres no sense of beauty, and those hideous windows, which while large on the inside, are regular sized on the outside are just deceptive marketing.
    Is the 380 a technological marvel. Yes. But unlike the 747, it doesnt combine technology with beauty.

  18. There will always be a market for super jumbos. The A380 and 748 will always live. Its like those large luxury cars that sell in small numbers but will never disappear because they are not blockbuster products. There is a small but important market for these cars and planes. The 777 9 and 8 x is a threatened species. Why will you buy an ageing jet which can be bested by the 350 and 787 hiccups notwithstanding. The 748 and 777 will be cargo planes, while the 380 will sell in small numbers. The 330F may be another goner. Boeing still has the 767F in production. How times have changed. In the 70s there was the 747, DC10, L1011, 707 the DC8 and the A300B2 ruling the international
    travel market. Now only the 787, the 350 and the 777. This despite the market having quadrupled in the last two decades.

  19. @747always

    I don’t think the 747 is “beautiful”. “Impressive”, yes. And “striking”. And even “iconic”. But not beautiful.

    The most beautiful design of jet airliner is still the first: the deHavilland Comet, especially in shiny aluminium finish. Like something out of the Space Age – a technological and social marvel. And sublimely beautiful.

  20. The first ever a380 is actually msn1 the test aircraft which has been layed up in Toulouse for a few years with grass growing all around it!

  21. Todd is absolutely correct. The A380 is here to stay. And whoever said that the A380 is not impressive and it is ugly – please have your eyes checked. Better still take another look at the aircraft both in the air and on the ground.

  22. The A350 had a serious fire hazard. The hydraulic cooling system was housed within the fuel tank. (Get that!) Under stress conditions such as take off the liquid had a tendency to overheat with risk of major explosion.

  23. @travel with Leo,

    The A380 is NOT going anywhere nor will it cease to exist. Airbus and Boeing don’t go and spend billions and years of research and planning to say after a decade that it’s not working so lets just get rid of it. I’m not sure where Lucky is getting this info but it’s so far fetched it’s not even funny.

  24. @paul the reason I referred to beauty is that the 747 looks eager to leap into the air, IMO. The 380 looks like Airbus shoved a vacuum cleaner up a 320s behind and set it on blower.

  25. @phirozekcama : Bawaji, kem cho? Aapre Nathi kidhu ki A380 impressive nathi, aapre khali kidhu ki A380 ugly che. Ne aankh test kidale che dikra. 20/20 vision che.

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