All indications would show that British Airways is still committed to the Airbus A380, at least for the next five years. British Airways was going to return the A380 back to service this fall, but that is going to have to wait.
Keeping the Airbus A380s In The Fleet
British Airways has a fleet of 12 Airbus A380 aircraft. The airline’s fleet plan shows an average aircraft age of 13 years. The average age of the A380 fleet is much younger at just 7.4 years. This made sense to withdraw the Boeing 747-400 aircraft which the newest aircraft was delivered to British Airways in March, 1998.
London Heathrow airport has only two runways which makes Heathrow a slot-constrained airport. Operating a large aircraft at airports where landing slots and gates are at a premium is where the A380 has an advantage. There has been talk about adding a third runway at Heathrow but this is far from a done deal. A year ago, Heathrow Airport won its case in the UK Supreme Court to continue with the project. The project still needs to get support from the public to build a third runway. Any operations from a third runway would be years away.
Passengers Like The A380
The Airbus A380 is a favorite with passengers and avgeeks. The aircraft is large with enough capacity for 469 passengers in four-class accommodations. The seatmap shows the arrangement of seating on the upper and lower decks:
In order for the British Airways A380 to be competitive in the premium class segment, they need to upgrade both first class and business class. The current 14 first class seats are the open suite design from the Boeing 747. British Airways was the first airline to install lay-flat seats in business class. That was over 20 years ago in design are they are configured in a cramped 2+4+2, open suite configuration. These seats are not only cramped but they are in a “ying-yang” configuration where half of the seats are facing the rear of the aircraft. British Airways has a new closed club world suite design in the A350, 797-10 and retrofitted 777-300 aircraft.
New A380 Maintenance Contract With Lufthansa Technic
British Airways has a large maintenance base at London Heathrow where some A380 service is performed. For the heavy work, C and D checks, engine replacement and other heavy maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) are conducted by Lufthansa Technik in Manila. This agreement will go until August, 2027 which indicates the airline’s commitment to the A380.
The Delay In Returning The A380
British Airways has six routes that optimize the capacity of the A380’s size. The delay from this fall until late March, 2022 is a result of covid restrictions on travel that are in place with five of the six countries. Right now, Dubai is the only route that British Airways could operate the A380 but it doesn’t make sense to operate this aircraft on just one route. If Covid travel bans and restrictions are extended, the A380 return to service could be further delayed. This is certainly a circumstance out of the control of British Airways.
All indications are there that British Airways intends to continuing flying the Airbus A380. It makes sense for the airline to fly these aircraft due to the landing slot constraints are London Heathrow Airport. Extending the heavy maintenance control for five years with Lufthansa Technik further demonstrates a commitment by British Airways to keep the A380 flying.
For passengers and avgeeks, there is comfort in knowing that the British Airways A380 fleet is not ready for the scrapyard. Since the estimated return to service date is over six months away, I hope that British Airways will upgrade the interiors of first and business class so they are ready to go when the A380 starts flying.