The future of Qatar Airways’ fleet of 10 A380s has been in doubt for some time. Speaking at a Simple Flying webinar, Group CEO Akbar Al Baker admits that the purchase of these jets was perhaps the biggest mistake the airline has made. Credit: Airbus.

Nothing like a US$445.6 million mistake to make a CEO cry in his coffee.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said this week the Airbus A380 — one of the most expensive and lavish airplanes ever built — has no future in the company’s fleet, Aerotime Hub reported.

“The biggest mistake we made was the purchase of Airbus A380s,” Al Baker said while speaking at the Simple Flying live webinar, adding that the double-decker does more damage than benefits both Qatar Airways and the environment. 

“We grounded the A380s simply because it is not a fuel efficient airplane,” Al Baker added. 

The status of the Super Jumbos has been questioned by operators ever since the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on the international travel market.

Qatar Airways had a total of 10 Airbus A380s in its fleet (at US$445.6 million apiece), as per data.

The Qatar Airways CEO said it is heavily relying on more fuel efficient aircraft, such as Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Currently, the air carrier has a total of 53 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft and 47 Dreamliners, the report said. 

However, while talking about the future of the airline’s sustainability plans, Qatar Airways said that it would change its Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners if “Boeing and Airbus introduced new generation aircraft,” which would be more fuel efficient with a low emission footprint. 

Qatar originally ordered the A380 in 2001, becoming the ninth customer with a small order for two of the huge aircraft. It ordered three more during the 2007 Paris Air Show, and a further five at the 2011 Dubai Air Show. Credit: Qatar Airways.

“Qatar Airways heavily invests in aircraft that have lower emissions. We don’t let the average aircraft age exceed 10 years,” Al Baker said.

Qatar originally ordered the A380 in 2001, becoming the ninth customer with a small order for two of the huge aircraft. It ordered three more during the 2007 Paris Air Show, and a further five at the 2011 Dubai Air Show.

The aircraft boasts a flight deck incorporating the latest advances in technology for displays, flight management systems and navigation.

Passenger inflight entertainment systems were also considered among the best in the business.

Seats were generally comfortable, compared to sardine-can seating on Boeing aircraft, and washrooms well designed.

But nobody could have predicted what the 2000s would bring.

The 9/11 tragedy, then the global financial crisis, disruption in the Gulf pushing up oil prices, a global pandemic and a teen activist that raised awareness of climate change … the A380 should have been a great aircraft, but due to circumstances beyond Airbus’ control, it is no longer fit for the purpose.

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In other A380 news:

  • While Lufthansa had been expected to retain two Airbus A380 aircraft at Frankfurt, on June 1 it bid farewell to its penultimate jet, possibly for the last time. Six-year-old D-AIMM departed Frankfurt in the morning, bound for long-term storage at Tarmac Aerosave’s Teruel facility. While the aircraft are still valued at over US$100 million, nobody wants them.
  • Emirates’ A380 has officially made a return to New York JFK after over a year of absence. The airline brought forward the return of the Super Jumbo from July as demand on the route begins recovering. After over a year of just being served by the Boeing 777, Emirates has officially brought back the A380 at the beginning of summer. 
  • Qantas may be downsizing and cutting its employee numbers, but the airline is keeping enough A380 pilots on its books to reboot its A380 fleet at short notice. Qantas has 12 of the Super Jumbos, but all are in long-term storage. However, Qantas is confident the planes will return to the air and is ensuring it retains the capability to operate them.
  • On Friday morning, the latest in a row of Etihad Airways A380s left Abu Dhabi International Airport, heading for long-term storage in Europe. Having removed the type entirely from its website, Etihad is now in the process of sending the remaining of its young Super Jumbo fleet west and to a very uncertain future.
  • Malaysia Airlines has become the latest in a string of airlines to ditch the A380. The airline plans to retire its Super Jumbos over the coming months. Given the poor second-hand market for the jet, the airline is still figuring out its game plan to retire the type.
  • Singapore Airlines was the launch customer for the Airbus A380, making its first commercial flight with the giant planes in October 2007. After an extended stay in the desert, the airline removed one of its Airbus A380s ahead of a planned refurbishment of the type. The airline plans to fit its entire remaining fleet of 12 aircraft with its latest A380 cabin product.
  • The last Airbus A380 ever built took off for its first test flight time, departing from the company’s headquarters in Toulouse, France, headquarters on March 26. The plane flew to Hamburg, Germany, where it will be painted in the livery of its owner, Emirates, before being delivered to the airline.

Sources: Aerotime Hub and online news sources