What actually occurred with the A380 aircraft of Thai Airways?

We haven’t seen the Thai Airways A380 soaring in the skies since the pandemic hit. The airline held a public auction on September 12, 2023, to sell six of its stored Airbus A380 aircraft. A total of six have been retired and four of them are stored at Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and the other two in Rayong–Pattaya International Airport.

The aircraft with registrations HS-TUA, HS-TUB, HS-TUC, HUB-TUE, and HS-TUF were stored between the period of March and April 2020.

Expenses Incurred in A380 operation

People who have visited Bangkok can spot the Thai Airways A380 stored in the ramp areas of Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), dusty and engines covered. After the pandemic took over the world, the airline found it hard to manage and operate the Super-jumbo jet also known as the Airbus 380. The aircraft requires high operating costs, especially for its fuel. The aircraft weighs 560 tons (Maximum Takeoff Weight – MTOW) and has up to 11 fuel tanks carrying 250 metric tons (320,000 liters). Besides these expenses, the greater number of crew, airport expenses, insurance, certifications, etc, all come into account.

thai airways
Airbus first introduced the aircraft in 2007 © TJDarmstadt

Thai Airways A380 served for nearly 8 years for the airline until the pandemic came up, which led to the retirement of the aircraft. Currently, these aircraft are stored in BBK and UTP without any commercial operation and waiting to join other operators.

Thai Airways A380 operation

The interesting fact is, that the airline had one of the shortest A380 routes in the world, from Bangkok (BKK) to Hong Kong (HKG) covering around 1,000 nautical miles. The airline used to schedule the aircraft mainly for their long-haul and medium-haul route operation. Each of Thai’s A380s can accommodate 507 passengers including 12 First class suites, 60 business class seats, and the rest in its 435 economy class cabin.

Thai airways a380 cabin
Thai Airways A380 economy class © Flickr Commons

Routes flown by Thai’s A380 included Frankfurt (FRA), London (LHR), Paris (CDG), Tokyo Narita (NRT) and a few frequencies to Osaka (KIX) and Nagoya (NGO).

Present A380 operators

Even though the super-jumbo has high operational expenditure, some operators still fly the aircraft. Being a double-decker aircraft, airlines tend to deploy the aircraft in high demand and long-haul routes. Primarily on long-haul routes, the aircraft provides comfortable travel for the passengers.

Current operators of airbus 380
10 airlines still fly A380s © Eric Salard

Currently, out of the total of 15 operators, only 10 are actively flying A380 which includes All Nippon Airways (NH), Emirates (EK), Etihad Airways (EY), Korean Air (KE), Lufthansa (LH), Qantas Airways (QF), Qatar Airways (QR) and Singapore Airlines (SQ). Airbus produced 251 A380 aircraft, out of which 140 were snapped up by Dubai flag-carrier Emirates, taking the record of the world’s largest A380 operator. The final A380 airframe was handed to Emirates in 2021, marking the end of manufacturing for the type.

Britain-based full-service carrier, Global Airlines is planning to acquire A380s for their operation. The airline will connect the passengers between London, New York, and Los Angeles with super jumbo aircraft. The airline is waiting to obtain the certification and will commence the operation in Spring 2024 in partnership with Hi-Fly.

Sadly, Air France (AF), China Southern Airlines (CZ), and Thai Airways have retired or stored the A380.

Want to own an A380?

The airline has auctioned each aircraft starting at US$50,000 per plane, significantly lower than the list price of around US$450 million given by Airbus in 2018, with each aircraft having 3,500 cycles. The oldest plane HS-TUA has crossed 32,880 flight hours.

The catch? Operators or whoever purchasing the aircraft have to deal with the airworthiness certification and service bulletins since none of them were completed on these aircraft, the airline said. Quite the maintenance undertaking.

After purchasing, the aircraft must be immediately moved from the airport. According to Thai Airways CEO Chai Eamsiri, the airline intends to get rid of the A380s to place an order for a new wide-body aircraft.

Have you flown on Thai Airways A380? Share your experiences on the super-jumbo below!

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Hissam Sadik
Hissam Sadik
Commercial Aviation enthusiast based in Dubai, UAE. Studying bachelor's degree in aviation management and have completed a number of research studies in aviation. Love watching aviation documentaries, drawing and playing football.
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