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By Eric Tamang, Valuations analyst at Ascend by Cirium
The entry of the Airbus A380 into service in 2007 had the potential to shift the direction of travel with its ability to carry more passengers than any other commercial jet in the market at that time.
The aircraft initially generated interest from customers spanning across three regions. According to Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer, more than 60% of aircraft ended up delivering to customers from the Middle East, followed by Asia Pacific with 24% and lastly Europe with 15%.
However, despite that initial strong interests the Airbus A380 ultimately proved too large to the market and Airbus terminated production after only 251 sales, with the final A380 being delivered to Emirates in December 2021. In terms of operators today, Emirates has the largest fleet of A380s with over 120 aircraft followed by Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and British Airways all with fewer than 20 aircraft.
In 2019, Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows that there were over 230 A380s in service and just seven in storage. However, during the pandemic, worldwide national lockdowns and closure of borders in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 fundamentally impacted demand for widebody passenger jets such that in 2020, there were 217 and 24 A380s in storage and service respectively. At that point many commentators predicted a bleak future for A380 with few expected to return to service at any point in the next few years.
However, as we recovered through the pandemic, those predictions proved to be pessimistic and the in-service fleet has recovered. Today, it exceeds the parked fleet, with 129 aircraft in-service and 109 in storage and the upward trend is continuing into 2023 as more and more operators bring the A380 back into service.
In addition, Ascend by Cirium’s tracked utilization also shows a strong upward trend for daily tracked Airbus A380 flights since early 2022 reaching almost 200 flights a day.
Although A380 production has ceased, it now seems the worst is behind it and the aircraft type utilization will continue to improve as more return to service and are deployed on various airline routes.
In the near-term, Cirium’s Fleet Forecast projects the steady pace of return to service to continue so that by 2025 there will be around 170 aircraft in service globally.
The fleet in service is then expected to continue an age-related decline, but the future for the A380 is far from as bleak as many projected in the darkest days of 2020.
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