LONDON – The world’s largest Airbus A380 operator, Emirates has begun its initial retirement of the type, as part of its efforts to keep their fleets, one of the youngest in the skies.

Once all A380s are delivered to the airline, it will have taken delivery of 123 in total.

The first two Airbus A380s have already been withdrawn, A6-EEH (CN119) and A6-EEK (CN132).

PHOTO: Emirates.

Both aircraft were flown to Dubai World Centre (DWC) to be salvaged for parts at the end of August 2019. One key thing to note, these A380s are only 6.5 years old, which is very young for an aircraft to be withdrawn for scrapping.

Emirates will also receive the final production Airbus A380 in 2021, as Airbus announced they will close production of the superjumbo.

Emirates originally had another 36 on order, both shelved this to 14 and converted their additional 36 orders placed in 2018 to 40 Airbus A330-900s and 30 A350-900s, with deliveries starting in 2021 and 2024 respectively.

Emirates took delivery of their first A380 in 2008 and currently has 110 Airbus A380s, with an average age of 5.6 years.

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark said, “You’ll start seeing A380s coming out of our fleet for various reasons, and we’ve always said this. These are being dealt with on a tail-by-tail, month-by-month basis under a retirement schedule that is well planned already.”

PHOTO: Airbus.

He also said, “Two A380s have been withdrawn from service at Dubai World Central (DWC) airport and will be used as a spares source for the operational fleet.”

He added, “We are in the process of starting A380 retirements. Two have been deactivated. They are under retirement because we’ve got a major overhaul coming up and it’s best to take the old aircraft out – they’re all written down – and take the gear off them rather than buy a $25 million main landing gear. I need two, possibly three, to meet that overhaul requirement.”

Tim Clark also went on to talk about about the types long term future within the Emirates fleet. “This aircraft will still be flying in Emirates in 2035. The fleet will stabilise at about 115 and then probably go down to about 90 to 100 by the middle of the next decade. So, the A380 will remain a major component of our fleet mix for the next 15 years at least.”

He added, “Clearly, the demand in the second-hand market isn’t there. So when we’ve got the life out of the aircraft that we had planned, in fact, we’re extending them by a couple of years, we’re indifferent to what happens to them in the sense that we don’t have any value left in them and we don’t have to take any write-downs.”

(Credits: Julian Herzog)

Emirates has also cancelled plans to retrofit new first-class suits onto their existing A380s but will continuing going ahead adding it’s the all-new premium economy product, a first for the airline, with refits starting from November 2020.

The latest announcement shows Airbus gambling on a second-hand market for the Airbus A380 seems to have backfired, as little to no demand exists.

The only second-hand operator of the type is Hi Fly, with a sole Ex Singapore Airlines A380.

Emirates currently operates the largest wide-body fleet in the world, consisting of 112 Airbus A380s and 155 Boeing 777s, which includes their cargo fleet and has an average age of 6.5 years.