ANALYSIS: Where are all the Airbus A380 SuperJumbos flying?

1 January, 2018

Now into the eleventh year of Airbus A380 operations, it is clear that the aircraft has not been the commercial success that Airbus hoped, and although this may be whispered around the corridors of production facilities in Blagnac, Toulouse and Finkenwerder, Hamburg, you certainly will not be hearing any executive of the company stating this publicly.

Maybe the aircraft arrived in the marketplace at the wrong time. Perhaps the SuperJumbo's time has yet to come with infrastructure congestion sure to be a topic discussed with greater regularity in the coming years. What is sure is the aircraft will always remain a niche option, but that exclusivity may just open the door to new markets for the type in the future with both the VVIP and charter sectors possible destinations for both new and used aircraft.

When Airbus first launched the A380 the marketing team at the European manufacturer had a field day. From bowling alleys to cinemas, the Super Jumbo was set to become the cruise ship of the skies. However, with the exception of First Class showers, bars and even a small art gallery, such innovations have been ignored by operators in return for maximising seating capacity to deliver the best economics to the airlines and comfort to passengers.

Now after more than ten years of commercial airline service, The Blue Swan Daily looks at the airlines and operations with the type. Our insight suggests that while it is clear that the aircraft certainly works on a number of city pairs - they are limited - and the cost of flying a fleet of sufficient numbers to deliver operating benefits is, in many cases, too high a price to pay in a market where the general strategy is now to gauge down to maximise profits rather than up to grow traffic.

According to the CAPA Fleet Database there are now more than 215 Airbus A380s now in commercial service with 13 different airlines. A further 95 aircraft are on order, although some of these aircraft are from historic orders and will never be delivered. Last year, we started to see the first aircraft come of lease to Singapore Airlines and now three of the Asian carrier's aircraft are now listed as inactive alongside the single Air France example that suffered the widely reported engine failure en route to Los Angeles and was forced to land in Goose Bay, Canada.

TABLE - Emirates Airline has been the biggest supporter of the Airbus A380 programme to facilitate the growth of its hub at Dubai International AirportSource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation Fleet Database (data: as at 20-Dec-2017)

Since the A380 made its commercial debut with Singapore Airlines in Oct-2007, the type has made more than 535,000 flights (as at 01-Jan-2018) offering more than 264 million seats. The aircraft have flown more than 3.82 billion kilometres on scheduled flights, more than 95,000 times round the world.

In 2017 there was on average a SuperJumbo departure every four and a half minutes with potentially up to 172,870 passengers being carried onboard the type each day. In the full year there were just under 117,000 A380 departures offering more than 58 million seats. The average sector length per A380 departure rose slightly in 2017 (up +0.4%) to 7,060km, but remains less than when the type first entered service (2008: 8,242km and 2009: 7,947km).

But, what were the biggest markets for A380 operations in 2017?

The Blue Swan Daily takes a closer inspection of last year's flight schedules. It is no surprise that OAG data shows that with Emirates Airline's massive fleet of over 100 A380s that Dubai International Airport is the largest network point for A380 operations. A total of 80 global airports have now been served by the airliner on a commercial scheduled service, including five which celebrated their first A380 arrival in 2017 - Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport in Morocco, Nice Côte d'Azur Airport in France, Boston Logan International Airport in USA, Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka and Warsaw Chopin Airport in Poland.

CHART - Dubai International Airport dominates for A380 departures, but it is Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport and Sydney Airport which are the major airports to have seen the largest growth in A380 flights in the past year.Source: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG