The Airbus A380 is making a comeback
The Airbus A380 is making a comeback. Photo: Matt Graham.

As the end to major COVID-19 travel restrictions draws tantalisingly close, demand for air travel is starting to return. Many countries, including Australia, are starting to ease border restrictions for vaccinated travellers. As a result, airlines are starting to return their largest planes to the skies!

In aircraft terms, the super-jumbo Airbus A380 was one of the first casualties of this awful pandemic (which, we shouldn’t forget, has tragically claimed the lives of millions of people around the world).

When demand for long-haul air travel collapsed overnight in March 2020, the A380 suddenly became too big and too expensive for most airlines to justify operating. The Boeing 747 sadly suffered a similar fate.

The whole point of the A380 was to transport large volumes of passengers between major international hubs. But as hubs like Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Abu Dhabi shut down and banned international transit passengers, A380s and other large, fuel-guzzling aircraft like the Boeing 747 or Airbus A340 simply became uneconomical.

Before COVID-19, 15 airlines operated the double-decker Airbus A380:

  • Air France
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Asiana Airlines
  • British Airways
  • China Southern
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hi Fly
  • Korean Air
  • Lufthansa
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways

Seeing no future for these huge planes in their fleets, Malaysia Airlines, Air France, Thai Airways, Hi Fly and Lufthansa have retired all of their A380s. Etihad will likely do the same but has not made a formal decision yet.

Lufthansa A380 taking off Frankfurt
Airlines like Lufthansa no longer see a place for A380s in their fleets. Photo: Lufthansa.

Emirates, Korean Air, Asiana, ANA and China Southern have continued flying their A380s throughout the pandemic – albeit with reduced schedules. For example, while ANA normally flies its A380s between Japan and Hawaii, they’ve lately been used on occasional domestic flights within Japan.

ANA A380
1 of 3 All Nippon Airways A380s in “Flying Honu” livery (JA381A). Photo: Airbus.

Emirates sees a long-term future for its A380s. It has even received new A380 deliveries from Airbus during the pandemic and is currently refurbishing some of its fleet with Premium Economy cabins. But Korean Air will likely retire its A380s (as well as the A380s it receives from Asiana following the merger) within five years.

Emirates A380s Dubai DXB
Emirates will continue flying A380s for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines are also retiring a small number of their A380s. In fact, Singapore Airlines just sent two of its scrapped A380s to the Changi Exhibition Centre. But these airlines have been keeping the rest in long-term storage, ready for when demand picks up again. On that front, there’s finally some good news!

Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Qatar Airways A380s returning to service

The Airbus A380 is finally making a comeback!

Singapore Airlines recently announced that it will restore regular A380 service on one daily Singapore-London frequency from 18 November 2021. It will operate flights SQ322 and SQ317, the latter of which is a designated VTL flight.

In preparation for the A380’s return to long-haul service, Singapore Airlines will also operate A380s from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur once per day from 4 November until 3 December 2021.

Singapore Airlines A380
Singapore Airlines will fly A380s to Kuala Lumpur and London from next month. Photo: Singapore Airlines.

British Airways will also bring back 5 of its 12 A380s on long-haul routes from London Heathrow to Dubai, Miami and Los Angeles from December. In preparation, BA will run A380s from London to Frankfurt and Madrid during November for crew familiarisation.

Qatar Airways is also bringing back some of its A380s from December – although in Qatar’s case, that’s not because it actually wants to. They’ll be used on Doha-London and Doha-Paris flights, but only because a problem with some of the airline’s A350 aircraft has left Qatar Airways short on planes.

Qantas, meanwhile, will start bringing back its A380s from July 2022. Qantas is now scheduling its A380s on flights QF11 & QF12 between Sydney and Los Angeles from 1 July 2022.

QF11 fares in First Class
The Airbus A380 is back on the Qantas schedule from 1 July 2022.

It seems the Airbus A380 does have a future after all.

The return of First Class

The return of the A380 also means the return of First Class on some airlines. During the pandemic, many airlines grounded their largest aircraft due to the lack of demand. In some cases, this also meant that airlines grounded most or all of their aircraft with First Class cabins installed. In fact, Qantas and Qatar Airways only offer First Class on their A380s.

Qantas A380 first class
The A380 is the only Qantas aircraft with First Class seating.

The Airbus A380 comeback means more First Class options. Although, some airlines like Singapore Airlines haven’t yet released much (if any) First Class award availability.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: A380 future post-COVID-19


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]