Aircraft Leasing Company Wants To Start All-A380 Airline

I feel like I need some sort of complicated flow chart to keep track of the A380’s future, as it just keeps getting stranger. For years Emirates has been the only airline that has really been happy with the A380, as they now have 100 of the planes in their fleet, and they’ve managed to scale their route network in such a way that the plane makes sense. However, other than that, airlines haven’t been too fond of the plane.

Emirates recently placed an order for 40 Boeing 787-10 aircraft, which are rumored to be in lieu of future A380 orders, since Airbus hasn’t committed to building an “A380 Plus.” So even Emirates’ love affair with the A380 may slowly be waning.

Keep in mind that in many cases airlines don’t directly own their planes, but rather they lease them from a leasing company, in order to mitigate risk. So while several leasing companies purchased A380s, that’s an investment that hasn’t been paying off quite as they had hoped.

For example, Singapore Airlines recently returned their first of five A380s to their leasing company after a 10 year lease, which is the first A380 ever to be returned. Interestingly Portuguese leasing company Hi Fly is acquiring two A380s, which they plan to fly starting in Spring 2018. Hi Fly wet leases planes to other airlines as needed, and the goal is to offer these planes to airlines seasonally. In other words, an airline might not be able to justify operating an A380 year-round, while seasonally there may be sufficient demand for the planes.

They’re certainly making the best out of the situation, though only time will tell how that works out.

They’re not the only ones getting creative with A380s, though, it seems. Ireland-based Amadeo is an aircraft leasing company that presently owns eight A380s, and has another 20 to be delivered. Most of these are operated by Emirates, but there are good odds that they’ll be returned to Amadeo at the end of the lease period.

Given the lack of interest in the plane, Amadeo’s CEO has outlined his plans to get an air operator license in 2018, and then start flying the A380s directly on behalf of other airlines and organizations. Per the Telegraph:

According to Mark Lapidus, Amedeo’s chief executive, the new airline’s business model will see it offer seats to existing carriers, or to potential non-traditional arrivals such as Airbnb. Passengers would buy their ticket through another company, while Amedeo would operate the flight, using its own cabin crew but tailoring the service to suit the client.

“Joint ventures and codeshares are making passengers feel accustomed to buying tickets with one [airline] but flying with another,” Mr Lapidus told The Financial Times. He added that Amedeo would apply for an air operator’s licence next year.

I’m not sure I would call what Amadeo is doing here especially “disruptive.” This is exactly what Hi Fly does, though certainly they’re trying to make the best of the situation.

On one hand you’d think there would be some seasonal demand for A380s from airlines, where the economics make sense. The issue with wet leasing a plane is that you really can’t control the quality of the experience. So as airlines are increasingly focused on the onboard product they offer (at least in premium cabins), that’s something that can’t be controlled when you’re not using your own plane, your own crews, etc.

Amadeo also proposes 11 abreast seating in economy on the A380, so that’ll be fun.

I don’t know, this whole thing is just bizarre to me. A tie-in with Airbnb to sell plane loads of seats? Hmmm….

What do you make of Amadeo’s plan?

(Tip of the hat to Curtis)

Comments

  1. While the goal is obviously to not fly long haul economy, I would sooner stay home than fly on a plane with 11 seats per row.

  2. @Garrett: Seconded!

    Further, if they’re wet-leasing the same planes to multiple airlines based on seasonal variances, how do airlines maintain brand integrity, especially with hard product? This would seem like a risky gamble for any airline that prides itself on on-board products.

  3. @Garrett: 11-abreast requires a raised floor on the lower deck which means that seats should be just as comfortable as their are now on A380s. IMO it’s more insulting that the premium economy on the upper deck has the current Y upper deck density.

  4. Would this be a modern version of steerage decks in the old ocean liners? Probably some sort of generic off brand travel. Wonder if this would appeal to charter travel companies? Maybe not the sort of thing a full service airline would be apart of but apparently there is a class of travelers that will endure almost anything to pay the lowest possible fare.

    Eventually they will take out the First/Biz classes, pack the max capacity (800?) into the air frame. When you board they will hand you a couple bottles of water, a boxed meal, and a piss bucket. If you push the call button you get a shock and a pre-recorded message that says it’s for emergencies only.

    Thank you for flying Dystopian Airlines !

  5. I don’t see 11-abreast on an A380 being any worse than 10-abreast on a 777, or 9-abreast on an A330, let alone 8-abreast on a 767, and yet all these configurations are out and about. Mind that Airbus still promises 18″ width with 3+5+3 thanks to a slightly raised floor, which positions the shoulder level to the widest point of the fuselage. Sure, it does look terrible at first glance, but frankly, after a recent cramped economy flight on a Swiss 777, I’d much rather try the Amedeo A380.

  6. Juraj,

    I agree, greater densities on a plane this huge is still better than the average coach experience on any US domestic flight. and I suspect there is a demand for 700-800 seat aircraft, on popular high-density routes. Although they would not have to be that long-haul either. You could surely fill them from SFO to LAX, for instance.

    Still, it’s a climbdown from the original promise where Branson wanted to put a hot tub on an A-380

  7. Priced correctly this will work. For Hajj pilgrims or discount vacationers. This blog does not have the right target market reading it to discuss this without bias … Come on guys/ladies — you’re all looking for lie flat business or suites. This will work for folks that just want to get somewhere specific at the lowest cost. The A380 is an awesome plane – it’s just looking for a business model and a market that will make it successful. Amedeo’s challenge is to find markets that will work for a mostly depreciated plane. Delta files mostly depreciated planes from b to c destinations today. This could work.

  8. This seems really out there. I have a hard time picturing established carriers buying capacity on one of these planes, especially with the dreaded “double-middle” seat in economy. There might be a few routes where they could pack passengers in cheaply on charter flights to leisure destinations, and maybe between that, Hajj charters, and a little side work for smaller carriers whose ambitions outreach their capital, they might get by.

    Or, and here’s a thought, if they can offer the capacity cheaply enough this might be Ryanair’s secret weapon for TATL flights? 😀

  9. The A380 came just a decade too late – a case of not viewing the wire lense. This is where Boeing has always excelled.

  10. Not sure if airlines fondness has anything to do with it. Its just that this plane doesnt make economic sense for most airlines, hence there has not been much demand for it. The Emirates business model will not work for every airline. It is about time that this ugly beast is retired.

  11. I keep reading on here that airlines other than Emirates are ‘not happy’ with the A380. Is there actually any evidence of this or are they just using them where it makes commercial sense? I think BA is very happy with full A380s going down to Joburg every day but they don’t see commercial sense in replacing 777 routes (plus they are hanging onto their jumbos for a long time!). One comment is a slur on the plane, the other is a comment on its place in a market where since the ME3/Turkish etc have expanded there are now more routes to destinations than ever before?

  12. Ned,

    You’re right, BA gets very good load factors on its A380’s, and moreover they have a lot of premium seats (14 in F and 97 in J).

    And they use it in routes that are both busy and have high-value pax, e.g. LHR to SFO, despite also using a 747 daily on that route too.

    Where they don’t use it is on LHR-JFK because the key there is frequency for business flyers who can just show up and get the next flights – it’s really a shuttle.

    I blame the airlines for not figuring out how to use what is the most sophisticated and luxurious plane out there. With airports becoming constrained, this plane fits a niche.

  13. The best plan for Airbus would be to eliminate the A380 program immediately. Allow the customers with open orders to either cancel or purchase other aircraft models.

    Be smart Airbus. Cut and run baby!

  14. I personally love flying on the A380 – but I only fly SQ, THAI, Asiana, Air France, Qatar Airways in First or Business…so pretty nice experience anyway, no matter what the aircraft type.
    Airbus put too little emphasis on getting the US carriers ‘on board’ with aircraft…
    As much as John Leahy is a legend Airbus salesman, major blemish on his career, unable to get the most powerful country/ strongest global economy in world to buy this aircraft; which
    probably scared away other potential operators to he honest…
    I hope they keep A380 in production, but think only viable if they re-engine, maybe even stretch the aircraft (as originally designed).

  15. @Martin – Perhaps most luxurious, but not most sophisticated 🙂 That crown would still belong to the 787 for begin revolutionary in aircraft design and technology as opposed to evolutionary.

  16. JoeBoo,

    Who knows how much pressure Boeing and the US government put on US airlines to not buy the A380. At the time US airlines were going bankrupt or close to, so timing was an issue as well.

    Emily,

    For that kind of sophistication, Airbus has the A350. The only competitor to the A380 is the 747 and they are barely being built any more. Boeing will soon have nothing bigger than a 777 and even the new one only seats 400 or so.

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