Qatar Airways will continue flying its superlative A380 superjumbos for some years to come, despite the airline’s outspoken CEO describing the double-decker colossus as “a hopeless airplane” in terms of fuel costs for the four mighty gas-guzzling engines.
But Akbar Al Baker is also very much a realist, admitting “it’s a fantastic airplane for the customer” as well as one which helps the airline get more people flying again.
“They will remain in service until we get the replacements like Boeing 777X and A350-1000s,” Al Baker tells Forbes, “due to the large seat count and the shortage of capacity.”
The resurgent superjumbo
Having initially been earmarked for retirement as the pandemic took hold, the A380s were unexpectedly pressed back into service in November 2021 as a stop-gap measure to help cope with increasing demand when almost half of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 fleet was grounded over claims of fuselage degradation.
It proved an unexpected return to glory for a plane which outspoken CEO Akbar Al Baker once described his purchase of the superjumbos as “the biggest mistake” in the airline’s history.
“We grounded the A380s at the beginning of the pandemic, and we never wanted to fly them again,” Al Baker told Executive Traveller in late 2021.
None the less, Al Baker ended up bringing eight of the ten-strong A380 fleet out of mothballs to fly to key destinations including London, Paris, Sydney, Perth and Bangkok, where they are a welcome sight for travellers with well-appointed first and business class seats and an elegant upper deck lounge.
And while the A380s will once again be stood down as reconditioned A350s head back the hangars at Doha and an additional 23 factory-fresh A350-1000s arrive from 2025 onwards, there should still be plenty of time to enjoy the superjumbos before they soar off into the sunset once more.
Speaking at a media roundtable earlier this year at the Paris Air Show, Al Baker confirmed the fate of the A380 remained inescapable, being “phased out as we receive (A350) airplanes... the A350s were also for fleet replacement. So, the A380s will have to be taken off gradually over a couple of years time.”
“Out of the 10 (A380s) only eight are now back in service,” he added. “Two are still on the ground, which we don’t intend to use.”
Up next for the Gulf carrier’s globe-striding fleet will be the long-delayed delivery of the Boeing 777-9, which is now looking like a 2026 proposition.
Those 777-9s will be crowned by a new Qsuite which CEO Akbar Al Baker has described to Executive Traveller as “a huge enhancement of the current Qsuite.”
“People now are all booking on QR because of the Qsuite,” Al Baker added, saying “it’s a brand that is now really known to everybody.”
As previously reported, Oneworld partner Qantas will put its own A380s out to pasture from 2032-2033 – the same timeline as Emirates’ A380 retirement – with a fleet of Airbus A350-1000s taking over key long-range international routes to London and the USA.