Travelers will have another option when it comes to flying on A380s starting in Spring 2018. Hi Fly, the Portuguese wet-lease operator famed for helping traditional airlines when their aircraft are in maintenance or otherwise out of service, will pick up a pair of A380s at some point in the next few months. The aircraft will enter service in early 2018. Specifics on the source of the planes remain unclear pending finalization of contracts. The plans were first reported by CH Aviation and confirmed by AeroTelegraph.
Hi Fly will fit 560 seats into the A380 in a two-class configuration. That seems a huge number but it comes in 55 short of the Emirates 2-class layout which debuted at the Dubai Air Show in 2015. The layout gives Hi Fly the ability to operate into high demand airports where landing slots are scarce. That’s been the main sales mantra for Airbus since the type was announced, though it is unclear just how many routes require such, particularly in the secondary/charter market.
The 560-seat layout is also good news for passengers as it avoids the dreaded potential 11-abreast layout. Yes, that increases capacity and therefore decreases unit costs for the aircraft operator. Presumably Hi Fly is realizing a sufficiently low price for the used frames that it can afford to not cram quite as many passengers on board.
The most likely source of the airframes is leasing companies handling the retirement of A380s for Singapore Airlines. The carrier was the first to fly the super jumbo, launching service 10 years ago. It retired its first A380 frames this summer, choosing A350 and 777 models for its fleet growth and modernization.
The good news for Airbus is that the A380 secondary market was previously seen as nil. Malaysia Airlines continues to seek customers for its fleet six A380 aircraft, for instance, with plans to fully remove the type from commercial service in 2018. Similar to Singapore Airlines, the Malaysia fleet will use A350s to modernize.
Still, Airbus has not had much luck finding new orders for the A380 for a couple years now (The ANA “order” last January simply absorbed previously committed aircraft from SkyMark). The manufacturer continues to tweak the A380 design inside and out, trying to improve the economics enough to induce new customers.
No one is biting.
Today only Emirates is even in consideration for growing an A380 fleet and it has struggled to fill its existing A380s in many markets; some new deliveries are reported going into storage rather than into service while other deliveries are being delayed.
Hi Fly’s fleet is relatively small but it has a smart mix of aircraft, allowing it to offer quick access to right-sized planes for Norwegian, Finnair and others. The A380 with the presumably low lease rates could allow the company to retire some of its less fuel-efficient A340s if desired.
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