Image courtesy of Ireland West Airport Knock

On July 30, 2019, the Air France-KLM  Group announced the progressive early phase-out of the Airbus A380 aircraft from the Air France fleet through to the end of 2022. The first of up to four ex-Air France Airbus A380-800s has been positioned into Ireland West Airport for storage, signalling the start of the airline’s A380 fleet retirement process.

The aircraft F-HPJB touched down in Ireland West Airport at 1612 local on Thursday 20 February 2020 in all white colours from Dresden, Germany creating history becoming the largest aircraft type to land at the airport. F-HPJB was painted all white in Malta from 23 November to 13 December before returning briefly to the Air France fleet. It completed its last flight AFR11V on 31st December 2019 flying from Shanghai to Paris CDG arriving 0535 local.

On 2nd January the aircraft positioned Paris CDG to Dresden as AFR370V where it was returned to its lessor, the Dr. Peters Group.  Then return to lessor test flights were completed on 2nd/3rd of January out of Dresden before positioning to Leipzig on 10th February for a short test flight.

In an interview with Airline Ratings November 2019 the Air France CEO Anne Rigail reportedly said ” I don’t know if anyone would have been able to forecast it at the time, but the A350 and the Dreamliner just made the A380 totally obsolete, too expensive, too big. Operationally it has always been a very difficult aircraft, you need specific ramp equipment, you need to rebuild runways and taxiways, you need special boarding ramps. I say this because I was working at our CDG hub when the A380 arrived – operationally it has always been problematic. Because you even need special training for everyone on the ramp, I have never seen this before.”

But when the A380 came to Air France in 2009, it replaced two aircraft types, so on the cost side, it wasn’t too bad. Since the efficiency of the A350 and the 787 is the same, but with less capacity and more flexibility, you can put them on any route. So, of course, the A380 is no longer useful. And we have all kinds of problems with it – related to the structure, the engines. And not only now when the aircraft get older – it has always been difficult with the A380.

But when you look at the overall investment when you add the refurbishment and the heavy maintenance checks due soon, the cost is so high that we think it’s better to renew the fleet. It is just more beneficial for the years to come to have new generation aircraft. I think the A380 is just outdated now”,

Announcing its full year results on 20th February Air France-KLM Group said it will take a charge of €126 million in 2019 for the early phase-out of the A380 aircraft from the Air France fleet. Adding The difference between the initial depreciation plan, i.e. an expected 20-year operational life for this type of aircraft and the accelerated depreciation following the early phase-out, amounting to €52 million.

Depreciation slopes have been revised so that the net book value as of the date of the aircraft’s phase-out converges with the estimated realizable value. – Impairment of fleet related assets for €74 million (including notably cabin retrofit projects, penalties on contracts and spare parts).

At this stage, the impact of this decision is estimated at around € (370) million, mainly due to the acceleration in the depreciation of the aircraft. The impact of the change in depreciation slopes will be spread over the period through to 2022, consistent with the retirement timetable for the aircraft.

Irish Aviation Research Institute © 22 February 2020 All Rights Reserved