MIAMI — The Airbus A380 has found a new home. Portuguese wet-lease operator, Hi Fly, has announced the acquisition of two former Singapore Airlines A380s, which the Asian carrier retired after ten years of operation.
Singapore took delivery of its first A380 in 2007, becoming the world’s first operator of the type. However, shy of 11 years later, it returned the two eldest double-decker planes to its lessors in June 2017.
The Asian carrier announced that its first two Airbus A380s were “undergoing de-lease work before returning to the lessor.”
For an aircraft of such young age, it is surprising to see it phased out. The plane’s last revenue service was from Singapore to London-Heathrow, then ferried to Tarbes Airport in France where it had been painted in a full-white livery, and its four Rolls-Royce engines had been removed.
The fate of these two planes remained uncertain. As mentioned in numerous forums, there was a strong likelihood that the A380s were to be potentially scrapped for parts.
However, increasing rumors suggested that Hi Fly wanted to purchase these two planes to substantially add capacity to its diversified fleet, and cater to airlines that need peak season capacity at the lowest possible cost. Currently, Hi Fly operates a fleet of 15 widebody A330s and A340s.
READ MORE: Hi Fly to Receive a New Airbus A330-900neo
According to the airline’s president, Paulo Mirpuri, the acquisition of the world’s largest airliner “has been part of our company’s plans for a while.”
The airline expects to take delivery of the first A380 in mid-2018. The planes will be configured with a three-cabin layout, totaling 471 passengers in First, Business, and Economy Class.
Hi Fly is taking delivery of its first Airbus A380, the world’s largest and most spacious airliner. The arrival is a major event for the Company, making it the 1st Portuguese and the 4th European airline operating the model. #Hifly #hiflyairline #a380 pic.twitter.com/JQpLUO8Sx4
— Hi Fly (@hifly_airline) April 5, 2018
Hi Fly notes that in its upper deck, the A380 will offer 12 First Class spaces, followed by 60 Business Class seats. On the lower deck, 399 positions will add to a total of 471 passengers.
The airline also mentioned that future high-density configurations might carry up to 868 passengers.
The Portuguese wet-lessor usually operates flights on behalf of airlines that need backup planes in case issues arise with their fleet, or a sudden spike in capacity is required.
The service it provides consists of an airplane, fuel, and crew, operating on behalf of the contracting carrier.
With the current Boeing 787 engine woes, for instance, Hi Fly has wet-leased numerous A330s and A340s to airlines around the world who desperately needed a replacement until the Dreamliners come out of maintenance.
Likewise, Venezuelan carrier Estelar recently entered into a wet-lease agreement with Hi Fly’s Maltese subsidiary to open up a new route between Caracas and Madrid. Hi Fly provided an Airbus A340-300 for the service, but when the aircraft was scheduled for maintenance, a bigger A340-500 was provided.
However, the fact that the A380 is a niche product could be a cause for concern for Hi Fly.
Only 14 airlines around the world operate the type and not every airport in the world is A380 ready, tightening the opportunities for airlines to show real interest.
Furthermore, the fact that Emirates has been the only carrier to order more A380s, and airlines like Singapore and Malaysia Airlines are looking to get rid of the oldest units, suggests that the future of the plane, as a whole, is in jeopardy.
Nevertheless, having a high-density plane capable of carrying up to 868 passengers could prove lucrative during the Hajj pilgrimage season, which is the most productive season for a wet-leasing airline. But an aircraft the size of the A380 would need to be operational year-round for it to make financial sense.
Overall, this is very positive news for the A380 program. Scrapping an aircraft after ten years of service is a definite proof of failure.
Hi Fly’s endorsement of the type will give the behemoth airline a much-needed breath of fresh air.