Air France Airbus A380-800. Photo: Anna Zvereva

LONDON – Air France (AF) has today announced it will be phasing out its Airbus A380 with immediate effect due to low demand caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Out of the nine units in the fleet, five are directly owned by AF or are on finance lease, with the other four being on operating lease.

It is understood that the cost for the aircraft to be phased out is at around €500m which will be placed into the expenses book for the second quarter of 2020.

Photo: abdallahh

The airline confirmed that deliveries of the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft will be replacing the aircraft in question.

The initial announcement for retirement was made back in 2019 when alongside that announcement, the carrier announced an order for 60 A220-300 aircraft.

On top of this, December 2019 saw the airline add another 10 units to what is now the 38-strong backlog for the A350 to join the Air France fleet.

This came after a story published by Airways in November 2018 that it was looking to half its fleet to five A380, following audits from CEO Benjamin Smith.

Image Courtesy of Airbus

The results of the audit revealed that the plane had become too expensive to run, especially when compared to the Boeing 777-300(ER) that the airline deploys on similar missions.

This is understandable given the fact that the A380 consumes around 20-25% more fuel per seat than in any newer long-haul aircraft.

As Smith mentioned in July, “these decisions support the Air France-KLM Group’s fleet competitiveness strategy”, and have obviously continued to be the case.

November of last year saw the carrier retire the first of nine aircraft, being F-HPJB, where it was painted in an all-white livery before it was returned to the lessor.

Photo: Jakkrit Prasertwit

Smith also mentioned last year about the airline’s new focus on optimum performance.

“They follow the recent orders for A350s and Boeing 787s that Air France and KLM have placed. We are very pleased to work with Airbus to add the A220-300 to our fleet, an aircraft that demonstrates optimum environmental, operational, and economic efficiency”.

“This is a very important next step in Air France’s transformation, and this evolution in Air France’s fleet underlines the Group’s determination to attain European airline leadership”, the CEO concluded.

Like with the news from Emirates about wanting to cancel the last five units in the order book, it is clear that airlines do not want to be spending a lot of money on aircraft that will also cost it a lot of money.