Malaysia Airlines is the latest airline to sound the death-knell for the Airbus A380, with its entire superjumbo fleet now up for sale – either as whole aircraft or as "components."
The national airline's parent company Malaysia Aviation Group has listed all six A380s in a post on its LinkedIn page, with interested buyers required to lodge an "interest of participation" by 12pm (Malaysia time) on Thursday August 12, 2021.
The A380's fate has been written on the wall since before the coronavirus pandemic, with Malaysia Airlines struggling to find a role for the four-engine double decker jet on a network where London was only long-distance route.
At various stages over recent years Malaysia Airlines has considered selling off the double-decker jets and spinning them out into a seperate airline which would charter the A380s to bring Muslims across south-east Asian on the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.
However, CEO Izham Ismail admitted at a media briefing in early May 2021 that "at the moment, the management is convinced that the 380 doesn't fit the future plan."
"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."
Malaysia Airlines was among Airbus' final customers to sign up for the superjumbo, taking its first delivery in 2012 – the last, which arrived in 2013, was the 100th A380 produced.
The A380's sported eight open first class suites (later rebranded as business suites) at the front of the lower deck, with 66 business class seats (in an outdated 2-2-2 layout) on the upper deck and 420 economy seats spread across both decks, with children under 12 controversially banned from the small upper-deck economy cabin.
In April 2021, Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas announced the Gulf carrier would keep its ten Airbus A380s grounded "indefinitely", admitting the superjumbos – adorned with the extravagant three-room Residence suite and nine spacious first class Apartments – were "a wonderful product, but they are no longer commercially sustainable."
(Douglas also dropped the bombshell that Etihad would axe its entire Boeing 777-300ER fleet, charting a future with the fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 to become a smaller and more streamlined 'boutique' operation.)
Air France and Lufthansa have also called an end to the Airbus A380; Qatar Airways will retire five of its ten A380s, but the fate of the remaining A380s remains in limbo.
However, Qantas and British Airways both intend to bring their 12-strong A380 fleets back as demand for international travel rebounds.
"We think we will reactivate all of the A380s," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has forecast, although he doesn't expect they'll all return to the skies until demand for international travel reaches 2019 levels "in 2024."
However, should demand for the key A380 routes to London and Los Angeles spike sooner, "at the end of 2023, we'll activate the first six aircraft very rapidly because we’ll have the pilots to do it," Joyce says.
British Airways' CEO Sean Doyle is of a similar mind, remarking in March 2021 that the A380 "is in our plans for the future rebuild of the airline – although he allowed that "exactly when we will put the A380 back into service is something that we’re not clear on."
As for A380 champion Emirates, airline president Sir Tim Clark believes there's plenty of life left in those superjumbos.
"The A380, of which we have 118 at the moment and five more on delivery, will continue in the plan until the mid '30s," Clark predicts, at which point they'll be fully replaced by the Boeing 777X.
By the end of this decade and the beginning of the next, Emirates' heavy-duty fleet strategy will involve "using the A380s on the trunk routes, barreling through from east to west and north to south... with the 777X gradually slipping in to replace the A380s that eventually retire."