Air France is assessing the future size of its Airbus A380 fleet, with reports the carrier could halve the number of super jumbos it operates. The French newspaper Les Echos claimed in November the airline will not renew the leases on two A380s that are due to expire in 2019, and that three other leased examples will also be returned to lessors in the future. Air France currently has ten A380s, five owned and five leased.
When AIR International asked Air France for comment, the airline neither confirmed nor denied the Les Echos report. An airline spokesperson told this magazine: “Discussions and studies concerning the size of Air France’s A380 fleet are ongoing.”
Air France previously switched two outstanding A380 orders to A350s, which followed another operator, Qantas, downsizing its super jumbo commitment by deferring eight unfilled orders. Other operators, such as Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, have previously told AIR International they are not planning further A380 purchases and IAG’s latest fleet plan shows there are no plans in the coming years to increase British Airways’ fleet from the current 12. Emirates is the only A380 operator that regularly orders more examples of the aircraft, and since the Gulf airline’s last purchase a year ago there have been no further sales. A reduction in the Air France A380 fleet would support the view held by analysts that the super jumbo, now more than a decade into its operational career, is looking as though it will only ever be used in small numbers by most operators.
This view is further borne out by the fact that All Nippon Airways, due to take on its first A380, JA381A (msn 262), in early 2019, intends to use only three A380s. These will be used on the carrier’s Tokyo-Honolulu route; the airline has not yet confirmed whether it will place the jets on other routes.
In mid-2018, Airbus revised the aircraft size classifications in its annual Global Market Forecast, placing the A350-1000, the largest A350 family variant, into the ‘extra-large’ category previously only occupied by the A380 in the forecast. The revision indicates Airbus now thinks the market for the highestcapacity airliners is not solely to be addressed by its flagship quad-jet, although the company insists the A380 has a long-term future in providing capacity for high-demand markets as air travel grows.