When Airbus introduced its superjumbo A380, the double-decker plane solved a problem — skyrocketing demand and increasingly limited airport availability — that simply doesn’t exist today.
Even in its most-spacious configuration, the Airbus A380 can fit nearly 500 passengers across four classes of service and two nose-to-tail decks. Filling one to capacity is unusually difficult during a pandemic, and it could be years before intercontinental demand returns to previous levels.
As a result, a handful of carriers have already retired their A380s, or plan to soon. Air France, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar and Thai are among the airlines that have grounded some or all of their superjumbos, and it seems Malaysia Airlines is about to join that list, with the carrier’s half-dozen A380s unlikely to fly passengers again.
Speaking to reporters this week, Malaysia Aviation Group Chief Executive Captain Izham Ismail suggested that those six Airbus A380s are almost certain to exit the airline’s long-haul fleet.
“We are cognizant of the challenges to sell this aeroplane, but we are still looking at ways and means to dispose of our 380 fleet,” he said, according to a Reuters report. “At the moment, the management is convinced that the 380 doesn’t fit the future plan.”
Malaysia has been lukewarm on the A380 since at least 2015, at which point the carrier reportedly put all six of its superjumbos up for sale. Later, the struggling carrier planned to add hundreds more seats to its double-decker planes, accommodating some 700 flyers in an all-economy configuration.
While the planes were never used for flights to the U.S., American flyers may have encountered them on other routes — they regularly flew between Kuala Lumpur (KUL) and both London (LHR) and Sydney (SYD) before the pandemic, for example.
Fortunately, this isn’t the end of the road for the A380 as a whole. Emirates continues to operate the world’s largest superjumbo fleet, and a handful of global carriers, including British Airways and Singapore, plan to continue flying the double-decker plane, too.
Featured photo by Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images
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