There should be a lot going on in May on the observation decks of the airports in Hanover, Dresden and Leipzig/Halle: "We'll be doing 60 training flights there with the A380 for newly trained pilots, and a lot of people will be watching," expects Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty.
It is a small sensation for aircraft fans and passengers: the giant Airbus, which has already been written off and shut down by many airlines in the wake of the corona pandemic, will soon return to scheduled service with Lufthansa, but also with other airlines. According to aviation analyst Cirium, more than half of all Airbus giants worldwide were in scheduled service again at the beginning of February, and the trend is rising.
The revival of the world's largest commercial aircraft - versions with 615 seats are on the way at Emirates - is making many travelers happy: no other jet is as fascinating to this day and even makes passengers accept detours just to fly with it. In the double-decker, the two cabin decks offer more space than in other planes, and it is much quieter on board. Depending on the airline, premium passengers can even enjoy showers, lounges and bars that are only available on board the A380.
For the turnaround, “several miracles came together,” explains Lufthansa spokesman Lamberty: “The rocketing increase in passenger demand and extreme delivery delays at Boeing.” This applies not only to the largest German airline, but to the entire industry.
The US manufacturer should long ago have delivered the largest new commercial aircraft currently being produced, the Boeing 777-9, also to Lufthansa, but now it will not be before 2025. So there was virtually no choice but to reactivate the A380, because the airlines quickly need more capacity.
Another reason for the unexpected A380 upswing: the value of used aircraft has fallen sharply, making it more profitable for many companies to put them back into service than to sell them. The fact that the A380 production was stopped also contributed to the drop in value; At the end of 2021, Airbus delivered the 251st and last aircraft ever built to Emirates.
Before the pandemic, the giant Airbus was in service with 16 airlines. Only Emirates, which operates the largest fleet with 118 aircraft, would have flown the A380 for a few more years, as did Singapore Airlines, the first A380 operator since 2007, and British Airways, which activated its giants again after a short period of mothballing.
Unlike Lufthansa. Group boss Carsten Spohr was still very sure just 15 months ago: "No, of course the A380 will not come back," he announced in autumn 2021. The crane line had once owned 14 copies, six have already been sold, the rest eight have been simmering in the sun of the Spanish semi-desert since spring 2020 in a parking space.
"At least three" of them are now coming back, according to Lufthansa. The first A380 was picked up from Spain in early December and flew from Frankfurt to Manila at the end of January, where it "will be made ready again as a regular passenger aircraft for the summer," the airline confirmed on Twitter.
Two more machines will follow by March. Passenger flights with it will not start until the high season in June. As a spokesman confirmed, Lufthansa will probably deploy its A380 to New York, Boston and Los Angeles.
Everything on board Lufthansa will appear unchanged from the last A380 flights of 2020, the airline will not change the cabin interior. Elsewhere this is happening very well - Emirates, for example, which currently has 84 A380s in the air, is currently subjecting its double-deckers to what it calls the largest cabin renewal program in aviation history.
All A380s will be refreshed on both decks, and for the first time there will be 56 cream-colored leather premium economy seats from the German manufacturer Recaro on board. 1000 hours of work have to be done in 16 days per aircraft.
Singapore Airlines and Qantas are in the process of upgrading the last of their returning widebody jets to the latest standards of comfort and ending cabin conversion programs that have been paused during the pandemic. The Singaporeans are now using the latest first-class suite in all A380s.
Awakening such a giant aircraft from its slumber is a gigantic task. Although the parked jets are regularly serviced and moved during the downtime, it takes a lot of effort to make them fit and safe for everyday flying again.
At Lufthansa, 2,500 working hours are expected just to transfer an A380 parked in Spain back to Frankfurt, from where it will be taken to Manila after a few weeks of maintenance. The final general overhaul takes place there, which again takes between one and two months.
At Qantas, too, the effort is enormous. "Waking up an A380 takes two months and 4,500 man-hours by ten engineers who replace everything on board, from 22 wheels and all 16 brakes to the fire extinguishers," airline boss Alan Joyce told Australian magazine Executive Traveller When the machines are back from the desert, they are overhauled for another hundred days.”
The latest A380 operator to surprisingly revive its decommissioned flagship is Etihad. The United Arab Emirates airline is reactivating four of its ten A380s for the Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow route from July 15. This is particularly pleasing to premium customers, because no other airline offers such a luxurious interior on board - right down to "The Residence", a kind of private apartment above the clouds for two with their own bedroom and bathroom with shower.
As before the pandemic, the largest A380 hubs are again Dubai (as Emirates' main airport) and London Heathrow. Six airlines are coming to the Thames with the giants, and the airport is expecting up to 22 A380 take-offs a day in midsummer.
In Frankfurt/Main, on the other hand, the A380 is only sparsely represented - Emirates uses it to fly daily to Dubai (also from Düsseldorf and Munich), while Singapore Airlines will replace its A380 on the Singapore-Frankfurt-New York route with a Boeing 777 after May 14 . "Since we only have twelve A380s in our fleet and the demand for Australia is rated even higher, the A380 will be increasingly deployed to Sydney and Melbourne from mid-May," said Peter Tomasch, spokesman for the airline, explaining the departure from Germany.
After all, the Korean Asiana is planning to head for Rhein-Main Airport again from Seoul with the double-decker from the summer. Lufthansa, on the other hand, will only start its flights with the resurrected giants from Munich.
Emirates currently offers the most comprehensive A380 route network worldwide with 40 destinations in 27 countries, followed by British Airways, which thus serves seven US cities plus Dubai and Johannesburg from London. Asiana, Korean Air and Qatar Airways all fly to Bangkok, among others, on the A380.
If you are planning a holiday in Thailand and absolutely want to fly an A380, fly with the Gulf Airline from Germany to Doha and change there to the wide-body jet to Bangkok. Australia travelers have the choice between Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
But there are also companies that have finally and definitively said goodbye to the A380. Air France was the first, followed recently by Malaysia Airlines and China Southern Airlines. The situation at Thai Airways is still uncertain. The company has mothballed six widebody jets and is considering returning up to four of the machines. Those who are said to be dead just fly longer.