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​Emirates begins A380 retirements to support in-service fleet

Emirates is implementing its Airbus A380 retirement plan which will see its fleet size peak shortly before declining to around 90-100 aircraft by the mid-2020s.

The airline, which took delivery of its first A380 in 2008, is to cut its orders for the type from 162 to 123 in the wake of Airbus’s decision to axe the programme in 2020. Cirium fleet data shows that the current fleet stands at 112 aircraft.

“You’ll start seeing A380s coming out of our fleet for various reasons, and we’ve always said this,” says Emirates Airline president Tim Clark. “These are being dealt with on a tail-by-tail, month-by-month basis under a retirement [schedule] that is well planned already.”

Emirates operates A380s on a mix of operating and financial leases, says Clark. “We have aircraft coming out as their [operating] leases end, or when their financial leases end if they are wholly owned.”

Two A380s have been withdrawn from service at Dubai World Central (DWC) airport and will be used as a spares source for the operational fleet, says Clark.

“We are in the process of [starting A380 retirements]. Two have been deactivated. They are under retirement because we’ve got a major overhaul coming up and it’s best to take the old aircraft out – they’re all written down – and take the gear off them rather than buy a $25 million main landing gear. I need two, possibly three, to meet that [overhaul] requirement.”

Clark emphases the A380 will remain part of the Emirates fleet for many years, although he expects the fleet to gradually start to decline: “This aircraft will still be flying in Emirates in 2035. The fleet will stabilise at about 115…and then probably go down to about 90-100 by the middle of the next decade. So, the A380 will remain a major component of our fleet mix for the next 15 years at least...

“Clearly, the demand in the secondhand market isn’t there. So when we’ve got the life out of the aircraft that we had planned – in fact we’re extending them by a couple of years – we’re indifferent to what happens to them in the sense that we don’t have any value left in them and we don’t have to take any write-downs."

Clark specifies that the Emirates-owned airframes can be used for spares support of its operational fleet. “What the lessors do [with their aircraft] is up to them.”

Meanwhile, with the demise of its large contract for additional A380s, Emirates has dropped plans to install its new first-class suites into the aircraft, says Clark. However, the airline will introduce premium-economy cabins on the A380 in November next year.

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