Emirates will keep flying most of its Airbus A380s, says Sir Tim Clark

The A380 will be Emirates' flagship for years to come says the airline's president, although many will also be grounded for years.

By David Flynn, May 24 2020
Emirates will keep flying most of its Airbus A380s, says Sir Tim Clark

Emirates President Sir Tim Clark says the airline will keep most of its 115-strong Airbus A380 fleet, although many will remain grounded until 2022, when he sees air travel beginning to return to pre-coronavirus levels.

The Gulf airline has been reviewing "costs and resourcing" with the possibility that almost half of its A380s could be stood down in an "accelerated retirement" plan for the superjumbos, which Emirates previously planned to continue flying through the end of the decade.

However, Clark now says "we're not getting rid of any of them, apart from I think three that are coming out," although he qualifies that with all 115 A380s now grounded "there are going to be a number that will have to go into long-term storage" until 2022.

The A380 had a “place in the Emirates international network on the scale it has before," Clark told The Financial Times"Albeit not today or fully next year, but the year after I think there will be a place for it and I think it is going to be extremely popular.”

Clark's superjumbo superlatives came three weeks after he declared "the A380 is over" and that the future of long-range flying belonged to fuel-efficient twin-engine jets, saying "the A350 and the 787 will always have a place."

Read more: "The A380 is over" declares Emirates president

Clark didn't comment on reports that Emirates is seeking to cancel five of its last eight A380 deliveries before Airbus switches off the A380 product line shortly before the 15th birthday of the world's largest passenger jet.

His remarks come in a week which saw Air France confirm it would ditch its Airbus A380s, while rival Etihad Airways is reportedly ready to retire all ten of its A380s.

Read more: Etihad may axe Airbus A380s, cancel A350 order

Likewise, Qatar Airlines – which will shrink its 200-strong fleet by 25% during the drawn-out recovery period from the worldwide coronavirus pandemic – is also reconsidering the fate of its superjumbos.

"Qatar Airways is parking its 10 A380s and they will not return for at least a year, and maybe never," airline CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker said, adding that the travel industry will take "around two to three years to get back to 2019 levels" – by which time he already intended to begin retiring the A380s.

Read more: Qatar CEO says A380s "will not return for at least a year, maybe never"

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.

As previously reported, Emirates will also push back the launch of its all-new premium economy class due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, and says it has no plans to upgrade older jets with the 'better than economy, less than business' product.

The Gulf colossus previously planned to roll out its bespoke premium economy seat – using what Clark has described as a railway-style "sleeperette" design – in the second half of this year on one of the airline's factory-fresh Airbus A380s.

A spokesperson for the airline has confirmed to Executive Traveller that "this project is still on the cards, although the launch will be delayed" – it's now expected to take place in the second half of 2021, potentially making its debut on Emirates' first Boeing 777-9 jets.

Read more: Emirates delays premium economy launch, won't retrofit older jets


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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 371

I for one am pleased Emirates will continue to have the A380 as part of their plans post covid 19. Let's hope QF have the same idea.


03 May 2013

Total posts 667

Does anyone else read a degree of myopia and unnecessary melancholy with regard to aviation generally..A380's etc? The world isn't getting smaller, its population isn't shrinking, its demand for things isn't wavering. I cant help but feel that the A380 may end up being needed more than ever?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 251

I think they are predicting that so many people will not be able to travel as they once did - the ones without jobs.now who won't have capacity to spend money on a holiday in near future. Emirates.had.a.big leisure market. It's.to the tune of 40m+ people in the US and the approx. 1m in Aus now without jobs.

so unemployment goes from 5 to 10%. Big deal. Still leaves 90% employed, who want holidays.

Malaysia Airlines - Enrich

01 Jun 2015

Total posts 28

I do think that only Emirates knew how to fill their plane with tons of A380.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

If an airline can afford long-term parking, keeping the A380s until demand picks up again makes sense. They offer an incomparable product across all classes and, if filled, great economics.

05 Dec 2018

Total posts 144

A380 is probably the best plane for social distancing, shame about the fuel burn.

Everyone is making there best guesses on the data they have. I understand the inconsistent statements. Next week something else can come up change the course again e.g. a miracle vaccine gets approved (I hope so).

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

A380 fuel burn is not a problem providing you can fill the seats. Its seat cost is less than 777-300ER for example; its just the market is so far down it will be hard to fly A380s with more than 85% taken in the short to medium term.

you can't have any social distancing on any aircraft. It doesn't work. If worried wear a mask.

29 Jan 2015

Total posts 41

A380 is my favourite plane, ever.

After 23 hours with one short break in an A380 I walk off the plane and can do a day's work fit and not tired.

in Y the A380 still pretty close to that level of freshness. Even if quite a few airlines have put more seats in a row in Y than Airbus suggested.

The plane deserves a life of 40 years and for no good reason it's been tragically cut short.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 52

Great news, IMHO the most comfortable plane in the skies in all classes


24 Apr 2017

Total posts 76

Great news indeed, This being the case, I suspect Emirates will get most if not all my international travel going forward. The A380 is the quietest and most spacious aircraft in the world. The best experience for customers by far.

29 Jan 2015

Total posts 41

+1. I haven't flown Emirates yet but if they will keep the A380 I'll switch my longhauls to Emirates.

Am inclined to support Airbus now too as there are worrying hints about safety issues with Boeing. Worker sabotage in a Boeing plant potentially and apparently QR even specified their aircraft should not come from a particular Boeing plant? And the 737max which got approval at federal level in the US and signed through with terrible safety issues.

Long live the A380.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 23

Great news as far as I'm concerned. I hope to be back on an Emirates A380 sometime in 2021. And when that time comes and the COVID-19 pandemic panic has run its course (and maybe we have a vaccine), I really hope that wonderful bar at the back, staffed by fabulous smiling flight attendants from all over the world, will be open for business and not shut down as previously reported. As someone once said "it's the only way to fly"!

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

15 Mar 2019

Total posts 20

Delighted to hear this. The A 380 business suite is one of the main reasons why we seek to use Emirates, as well as the complimentary chauffeur service, excellent in flight service and great lounges. However Qatar are a serious competitor on routes where the Q suite is available.

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