Air France has decided to retire 5 of its A380’s after a lengthy review of its operations and capacity issues.

The new Canadian CEO Benjamin Smith is determined to execute a wide-ranging re-organisation of the airline, and its aircraft requirements.

The original plan had been to refurbish the entire A380 fleet during 2017-20 but this was mostly postponed on cost grounds. The A380’s, which cost around a 30% more than a 773ER to refit, are flying routes the airline struggles to fill all the seats on. It’s also highly crew intensive and costly to operate – even more so when the airline itself is generally inefficient.

So with its first aircraft approaching ten years old in 2019 and on lease, the airline is planning on returning it to the lessor – DS Aviation. F-HPJB is the first with JD, JE, in 2020 and 2021, JG and JJ in 2022 and 2024. The other five are owned by the airline itself.

This will inevitably result in yet more stress on the used market for the A380 – there are already two that look destined for the scrap yard retired from Singapore Airlines, and the only used aircraft in service is an ex-SIA now flown by HiFly.

The oldest aircraft are also the least attractive to other airlines as they all suffered from wing root issues and weigh more than their 2011+ sisters.

The inevitable crunch is coming for the A380 used market as Emirates start to hand their first aircraft back in the coming years – the 2008-10 intake has four aircraft due for return on 12 year leases in 2020-21, with another nine due in 2022-24 and 24 more spread between 2025-29.

Add to that other airlines handing theirs back and the used market for A380’s looks set to be a disaster along the lines of the A340-600.