Air France will ditch the double-decker Airbus A380, making it the latest airline to walk away from a jet that's now seen as simply too big for the downsized travel demand of the coronavirus era.
The SkyTeam member already planned to phase out its nine A380s by the end of 2022, but now says all have met a "definitive end" which will take immediate effect, as the jets have already been grounded.
"The phase-out of Airbus A380 fleet fits in the Air France-KLM Group fleet simplification strategy of making the fleet more competitive, by continuing its transformation with more modern, high-performance aircraft with a significantly reduced environmental footprint," the airline said in a statement.
Air France said its newer Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 jets, "whose deliveries are ongoing", would take over from the A380.
The mammoth jet is a tough bet for airlines which are braced for demand not to return to prior levels until 2023 or later. Airbus had already opted to discontinue the A380 program as carriers looked to simplify fleets and upgrade fuel efficiency but now airlines around the world are opting to retire it early.
Long-time A380 champion Emirates is now seeking to scrap its last five Airbus A380 orders and cut as many as half of its 115-strong A380 fleet.
In April, Lufthansa said it would retire six of its 14 A380s earlier than scheduled, while Qantas may follow a similar path with its own A380s as part of a sweeping review of its entire international fleet to reshape the airline around post-coronavirus travel demand.
"There is a potential to bring all 12 (A380s) back (into service), but there is a potential to bring less than 12 back," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told Executive Traveller of the airline's flagship jets. "That will depend on what the recovery scenario looks like. The Qantas of 2021 and 2022 will not be the Qantas of 2019."
Qantas has also halted a multi-million dollar upgrade program which was to have seen all A380s outfitted with new business class and premium economy seats, new inflight lounges and refreshed first class suites by the end of this year. Only half of the 12 A380s have been refurbished.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg