TOULOUSE – All Nippon Airways (ANA) has secured another milestone in its history through the delivery of its first of three Airbus A380s, at the Airbus Delivery Center in Toulouse.

The delivery is another milestone for Airbus as well, as they deliver the A380 to another new customer.

Photo: Dirk Grothe

Sadly, ANA is set to be the last new customer of any new build A380s, as Airbus announced last month it was shutting down the program, with the last A380 rolling off the production line in 2021.

All three of ANA’s A380s will be delivered during 2019, each featuring a unique livery. Each aircraft represents a sea turtle, with the first one painted in a blue livery and will be named Lani. The second in a green livery and the final one in an orange one.

The green livery will be named Kai and is set to roll out on the 25th March at the manufacturer’s Hamburg plant. The third will roll out later this year and will be named La. ANA dubs these liveries as ANA Blue – Hawaiian Sky, Emerald Green – Hawaiian Ocean and Sunset Orange – Hawaiian Sunset respectively.

Photo: Dirk Grothe

The airline intends to use the aircraft on flights to Hawaii from Tokyo Narita. The inaugural flight is planned for the 24th of May. Currently, the airline uses a mix of Boeing 787-8s & 9s, the A380 will replace them and literally double their capacity on the route.

Photo: Dirk Grothe

The airline will initially deploy the aircraft on the route 3 times per week on the early morning flight, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

On the 1st of July, the flight will go 10 weekly once the second A380 is delivered, with the A380 operating the route on a daily basis. ANA plans to utilise the A380 to gain around 25% of the market share on the Japan, Hawaii market.

At the press conference, both Airbus and ANA commented on the milestone for both companies.

Photo: Dirk Grothe
Photo: Dirk Grothe

“We’re proud to deliver this beautiful A380 to ANA. It will offer unrivalled levels of passenger comfort and will enable ANA to increase capacity on the busy route to Hawaii with maximum efficiency”, said Tom Enders, Airbus CEO.

Photo: Dirk Grothe

“We will commit all three of our Airbus A380 to the Tokyo Honolulu route with the goal of introducing a new level of luxury service to our passengers flying ANA on the number one resort route for Japanese travellers,” said Shinya Katanozaka, President and CEO of ANA HOLDINGS INC.

Photo: Dirk Grothe

“The FLYING HONU is designed to offer unprecedented comfort and convenience and a world of new possibilities to ANA passengers, something that would not have been possible without the combined efforts of the Airbus and Rolls-Royce teams working closely with the dedicated professionals at ANA”, he added.

Photo: Dirk Grothe

ANA will config its A380s with 520 seats and four classes: Eight First Class, 56 Business Class, 73 premium economy and 383 Economy class. At the back of the lower deck, there will be ANA sky couch type seats, three economy class seats which can be configured as lie-flat beds.

The downfall of the A380

The A380 has struggled from the get-go. Despite the admiration and love passengers have for the type, airlines have never sang the same tune. In an age where twin-engined powered, medium to large widebodies is becoming their preferential over the quad-jets, which have dominated long-haul air travel since the late 1950s/1960s.

Photo: Dirk Grothe

Since Airbus launched the A380 in December 2000, the A380 has struggled to gain orders, despite Airbus forecasting demand for over 1,000 of the type initially.

Twin engine widebodies aren’t the only factor which has plagued the A380. Even though Airbus has booked 256 orders from 12 operators, they haven’t exactly made much of a profit from this endeavour.

Photo: Dirk Grothe

The cost for a single A380 has deterred a number of airlines from ordering the type, which has played a big roll in the aircrafts downfall. The second-hand market has been practically non-existent as well.

Singapore Airlines phased out its first five A380s during late 2017/early 2018. One of these A380s was delivered to Portuguese charter specialist Hi Fly during Summer 2018, however, it is unknown whether the airline will take on a second A380, despite expressing interest in doing so. The fate of the first two A380s has been decided, with them getting scrapped in Tarbes France, after flying for just over 10 years. The fate of the fifth example is currently unknown.

The IAG Group has been expressing interest in adding second-hand A380s and new builds if the price was right.

The aircraft would be for UK Flag Carrier British Airways, who operates a fleet of 12 A380s, the first being handed over in 2013.

However, actions speak louder than words and the possibility of this happening is unlikely, with the group recently ordering 18 Boeing 777-9Xs, with 24 options. Additionally, they have 18 A350-1000s on order with 18 options and is set to receive the first example in July 2019.

Entering the Twilight Years

The A380 is now entering its twilight years of operation, as a number of airlines have already announced plans to withdraw the type or reduce their numbers.

Air France has announced three of its 10 strong A380s will be withdrawn and returned to lessors in 2020. Despite this, Air France plans to upgrade the cabins of the remaining seven A380s, with the first example getting fitted during the summer.

As mentioned earlier, Singapore Airlines retired it’s first five A380s, however, the airline took 5 new A380s in 2017 and 2018 with all-new cabins. They are also in the process of retrofitting the remaining 14 A380s, with this set to be completed by the end of 2020.

Photo: Clement Alloing

Lufthansa very recently announced it will reduce its fleet from 14 to 8 in 2022/2023 when it ordered 20 Boeing 787-9s and 20 more Airbus A350-900s. Qatar Airways plans to retire its fleet of 10 by 2028, with the first aircraft leaving in 2024.

Other airlines will follow suit in the near future no doubt. Despite the remarkable piece of engineering the A380 is, it will never be revolutionary like the 747 and has reached its twilight years a lot faster than Boeing 747s.

All is not bad for the A380 however. On the same day Airbus announced the shutdown of the program, at a press conference in Toulouse, Emirates also made two major announcements in regards to their A380 fleet and overall fleet.

Emirates converted its 36 A380 order placed last year into 30 A350-900s and 40 A330-900s. The carrier still plans to take 14 more A380s and is expected to take the final A380 to roll off the production line in 2021.

Emirates also announced it plans to operate it’s A380 fleet well into the 2030s and will continue to upgrade their cabins, to keep them up to industry standard.

Emirates plans to use the Boeing 777x as the direct replacement for the type, which Emirates are the largest customer for. Emirates are additional the largest customer for the A380, operating around 48% of the global A380 fleet, so this continued commitment from the largest operator shows the A380 will be flying for many years to come.