MIAMI – South-Korean carrier Asiana Airlines (OZ) announced earlier this week that it will bring back to the skies a part of its Airbus A380 fleet.

The type was grounded since the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020. The jumbo-jet should operate two long-haul routes to Los Angeles (LAX) and Frankfurt (FRA). These flights should start in March 2022.

Asana is the second biggest airline in South Korea behind Korean Air (KE). It is part of the Star Alliance, which may explain the new A380 destinations. Its main International hub is Seoul-Incheon Airport (ICN) but it also has a domestic hub at Gimpo Airport (GMP).

The airline mostly operates Airbus aircraft, with the A320 family on medium-haul and on long-haul, the A330-300, the A350 family, and, of course, the A380. It also operates Boeing aircraft, with one Boeing 747 and some Boeing 767-300 and Boeing 777-200ER widebodies.

The carrier ordered six units of the type back in January 2011. It was the second airline to order the jumbo-jet in Korea after KE’s order. The first delivery took place on May 6, 2014, and the other units followed until the sixth one in 2016. The A380 served long-haul routes from ICN until the COVID pandemic began. OZ made the decision to ground the type, just as most all the other airlines across the world did.

The A380 was not popular because it was just too big for low demand. It could not land at every airport, as it needed special infrastructure. With the Covid pandemic, there were considerably fewer passengers, and the airlines did not manage to fill such big aircraft and mostly why they grounded the type all around the world.

Airbus decided then to stop producing the A380, delivering the past Superjumbo to Emirates (EK) earlier this month.

A close-up of this enormous aircraft, carrying hundreds of passengers across the world. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

A380 Destinations

However, it is yet not the end for the A380. OZ decided to fly it on two long-haul routes, starting in March 2022. The jumbo-jet will fly from ICN to Las Angeles Intl Airport (LAX). Los Angeles is an important destination in the US, and it was the first one for OZ A380.

Even if LAX is not a hub for OZ’s American partner United Airlines (UA), it is still an important focus city for the Star alliance, and it gives many connecting opportunities for passengers from Korea.

This reason is even more important for Frankfurt (FRA), Germany. We could think that FRA is not the most important route for OZ in Europe. However, we can recall that OZ is part of the Star Alliance, and is therefore linked to the European carrier Lufthansa (LH), whose biggest hub is FRA.

We can therefore think of FRA as a strategic destination for OZ, as many passengers can then easily connect to shorter European flights.

OZ A380 taking off from LAX Airport. In the background, we can also spot Air France and LH A380s. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

A380 Fleets Reactivating

We still don’t know exactly how many more OZ A380s will start flying again, but we can guess that there will be at least three or four needed to fly the two long-haul routes. However, it is likely that the type will not operate flights in March. We could have some news around the corner, with new destinations for the OZ whales.

Asana is not the first airline to bring the A380 back. Many airlines recently announced the type’s return and 2022 should see many more A380 flights than 2020 or 2021. EK, the biggest operator of the type, kept flying the jumbo-jet in 2020, but it recently announced it will operate it on many more routes.

Moreover, British Airways (BA) announced this month that it would fly the type to Dallas (DFW) next summer. In the middle of December, Qatar Airways (QR) started flying it again to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and London-Heathrow (LHR). Finally, just three days ago, Qantas (QF) said the A380 will operate the Sydney (SYD) to LAX route starting in January.

All these announcements show that the A380 will fly a lot more next year, and that travel demand rises once there is a recovery from the pandemic.

Featured image: The A380 is operated on key OZ long-haul routes. Photo: Julian Schöpfer/Airways