The world’s largest passenger jet is making a return. Reported first by Executive Traveller, the Doha – based carrier Qatar Airways, is set to bring their A380 super-jumbo’s, back to the skies starting early November. Like most of the other A380 operators worldwide, the Gulf carrier permanently grounded its doubled decker fleet, as the aircraft did not make economic sense in a mid, and post pandemic world, said the airline CEO Akbar Al Baker.
Al Baker had previously described the purchase of ten A380s as “the biggest mistake” in the airlines 27-year history. “We grounded the A380s at the beginning of the pandemic, and we never wanted to fly them again,” Al Baker admits. Attributing to the superjumbo’s thirst for fuel and environmental impact, as to why “I don’t think there is a market for that airplane in the foreseeable future”.
The Gulf carrier reported recorded losses of $4.1 billion for the financial year 2020/2021 only a few days ago. Much of that loss largely due to a $2.3 billion one-time impairment charge, related to the grounding of their A380 and A330 fleet.
The re-inauguration of the aircraft does also see a return in Qatar’ first class cabin, which features an elegant upper deck lounge, reserved for business and first-class travellers.
Five of their A350 aircrafts are due to be un-mothballed by early November, with the possibility of seeing all 10 flying again in 2022. The routes the superjumbo will be operating, have not yet been revealed.
The decision to bring back the A380 is due to 13 of the carrier’s workhorse fleet, the A350, being grounded by the country’s civil aviation authority. The airline had been noticing significant fuselage issues across the fleet, whereby “the fuselage surface below the paint is degrading at an accelerated rate.” Qatar airways took immediate action to offset the grounding of the aircraft by returning its A330 fleet in to service with immediate effect back in August.
Qatar Airways was the launch customer for both the Airbus A350-900 and A350-1000 back in 2018 , and has the second largest A350 fleet in the world, (Singapore Airlines being the largest operator of the A350). Qatar Airways currently has 53 in its fleet, and has a further 23 on order. The grounding of the A350 leaves the carrier with an almost 4,000-seat hole in the airline’s passenger capacity.
Qatar Airways issued a letter to former colleagues stating it is “now looking to restart recruitment activities”, which was reported by Sky News early 2021. The airline has already begun the retraining of the many A380 pilots, through simulator sessions and physical aircraft flying, in preparations for the A380s surprise return.
In addition the airline has released a secondment call for Boeing 777 pilots from the airline’s close partner, British Airways. Up to 40 pilots are wanted for this opportunity during the 2021/2022 winter season, and secondment is limited to six months with possibilities of an extension.
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