Emirates eager to bring its A380s back to Australia

The palatial superjumbo will return to Australian skies, Emirates maintains, but when is another matter...

By David Flynn, October 9 2020
Emirates eager to bring its A380s back to Australia

Emirates plans to bring its flagship Airbus A380s back to Australia as travel restrictions ease, borders re-open and demand returns, although this might take until late 2021.

The Gulf carrier and Qantas partner has downsized its Australian flights to the Boeing 777 and still runs on a limited schedule due to strict caps on the number of arriving passengers, which sees many flights carrying fewer than 50 passengers.

"The 777s are the right size aircraft for us at the moment," Emirates Australasia vice-president Barry Brown told The Australian,  but the more the borders open up, the more you’ll see the 380s returning."

Airlines expect a slow and uneven recovery for air travel over the coming years.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has suggested that with the exception of 'bubbles' to selected countries which have brought Covid-19 under control, international travel is likely "to remain largely closed off until late next year and then gradually return over time," even allowing for availability of a vaccine "around the end of 2021."

Read more: Australia's international travel ban likely to remain until late 2021

Emirates hopes to see its A380s return to Australian skies, but 'when' is another matter...
Emirates hopes to see its A380s return to Australian skies, but 'when' is another matter...

Gulf neighbour and rival Etihad says the fate of its own A380s remains in the balance, while Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker says his airline's ten superjumbos "will not return for at least a year, maybe never."

However, Emirates has already put some of its A380s back into the air, and outgoing President Sir Tim Clark hopes to have all 115 of them flying by 2022.

With their first class shower suites and a business class cocktail bar, those superjumbos represent a golden era of modern air travel.

The latest A380s awaiting delivery to Emirates include the airlines' all-new premium economy product, which Clark has described as a railway-style "sleeperette" design nestled in its own cabin at the front of the lower deck.

Clark has previously told Executive Traveller that the seat will fully cradle the legs and feet in "something like lazy-Z" configuration with a 10-inch recline, rather than going fully flat – a trait which will remain the exclusive domain of business and first class.

"It's probably where business class used to be, and in some cases where first used to be in the old days, 30 years ago," Clark reflected.

This design has been tipped as Emirates' new premium economy seat.
This design has been tipped as Emirates' new premium economy seat.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Emirates premium economy

Before the pandemic hit, Emirates was also planning a third generation of its signature A380 bar, which was launched in 2008 with the airline's first superjumbo and redesigned in 2017 to provide more communal seating in a lighter, brighter and more modern environment.

Emirates' second-generation Airbus A380 inflight bar and lounge.
Emirates' second-generation Airbus A380 inflight bar and lounge.

Speaking with Executive Traveller in December 2019, as the first strains of Covid-19 were stirring half a world away, Clark said the new design would "be a step change in what we're doing", with the airline “enlarging the seating area again” and sprinkling clusters of AC and USB power outlets around the tables.

This would create somewhat of an alternative working environment for business travellers taking a break from their regular seat, but could just as easily be used to top-up a smartphone while enjoying both a bartender-mixed beverage and the company of others.

Emirates' second-generation Airbus A380 inflight bar and lounge.
Emirates' second-generation Airbus A380 inflight bar and lounge.

But “what we tend to find is that people (usually) leave their PDAs, laptops, mobiles etc. at their seat, and just go back and get stuck into what we always used to do, which was talk to each other,” Clark recalled.

It’s an experience that drives many passengers to “go out of their way to travel on us, because they have this superb product,” which has “more than paid for itself” over the years, he assures, even though the floor space occupied by the lounge could otherwise have accommodated eight extra business class seats on every flight.

Also read: Behind the design and evolution of Emirates' Airbus A380 bar


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

05 Dec 2018

Total posts 144

‘PDAs’ this must be a skeleton of a quote. Unless it’s the non electronic physical version PDA Tim was talking about leaving behind.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2551

Quite a few people of a certain age still refer to handheld devices as "PDAs" in a very generic sense, I suspect it's a holdover from their adoption of the first wave of these devices - Newton, Palm, Pocket PC - before 'smartphones' replaced them and became the new terminology.

05 Dec 2018

Total posts 144

That makes sense.

Btw great article, be interested if Emirates will go ahead with the third revision of the bar.

07 Oct 2020

Total posts 2

Yeh and as.usual EK unlike QR (more practical) keep living in their dreamland if they believe there is still a room for 380 in the Australian market if any after this virus! They said Dubai was opening up now look again lockdowns are starting! The UAE again unlike Qatar (ie the country) are more realistic and UAE live in their bubble what they don't understand is people around have lost jobs can't even put food on the table etc etc travel is not a priority! Period! Ofcourse they need tourist coming to pay for all that infrastructure they have built or will be forced to raise their taxes as someone needs to pay for it!

KW72 Banned
KW72 Banned

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 242

Don't think the A380 will ever come back to Australia when it can go elsewhere. Why would EK put its biggest aircraft to a market that has such restrictive and unpredictable border restrictions? Especially to Brisbane and Perth. 


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 75

I think they have a few spare.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 68

Actually, there is a market for A380s, and it potentially could be muich larger, when we look at seatcounts of high density A330s and 777s too.

But not specifically from Europe. 

13 Oct 2020

Total posts 1

I love the A380's just for the Bar alone....

Anyone have any clue when they will "open up" the bar onboard once again? Im looking at planning a trip around New Years (not to/from Australia) and wondering if theres a chance...if not, id probably just fly another airline this time around ;(

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