HiFly says it needs more A380’s, yet existing one goes nowhere often

HiFly sees itself expanding to no less than 100 aircraft in the coming years as passenger numbers are set to double again by 2030-35.

Its CEO and founder, billionaire and philanthropist Paulo Mirpuri, has let it be known they need more A380’s.

Well getting another second hand isn’t going to be difficult- Qatar, Emirates, Air France and Lufthansa are, between them due to shed some 30+ aircraft in the next 5 years.

Yet the question begs itself why? Last year the existing A380, an ex Singapore Airlines aircraft, one of the first built, was taken on by the airline, leased from Doric. Two more have been/are being broken up at Lourdes in France.

The current one was said to have bookings for all of 2019. Yet it’s barely conducted a dozen full return flights, as a check on FlightRadar 24 will show, some of them very short, since April, with extensive periods on the ground, apparently with technical problems.

Leasing one of these even at bargain prices – and retaining access to qualified pilots and crew is no cheap option and it clearly isn’t paying its way right now. In fact looking back over it’s 12 month history with HiFly and it’s usage isn’t that impressive.

True, the distress business of flying in an A380 to pick up the pieces of an otherwise abandoned flight, or replacing long term ‘technical’ aircraft such as Max or Dreamliners isn’t low cost for the hiring airline.

Yet I’m not convinced this is an aircraft that’s going to work out for HiFly. CEO’s like to say big things. Their dreams are often far bigger than realities necessarily permit.

It may be that this particular A380 was a mistake, the early birds were difficult beasts with more than their fair share of issues – Singapore was anxious to get rid of them at the end of their term.

Perhaps another, later model might have more success. The last thing HiFly needs is a rescue aircraft going technical and having to send another set of aircraft to rescue the rescuer.

If HiFly can’t make a viable case long term for the A380, even in limited numbers the aircraft is going to be one of the biggest aviation fails of all time.

Some 60% of A380’s are leased on 10-12 year contracts. That means of all those flying on lease over 200 could be out of service by the late 2020’s, either broken up or stored.

Airlines like BA will keep theirs flying because they own them and need them, there’s no reason other than running costs that they’d have to stop.

If Heathrow doesn’t end up with a third runway – and that looks very unlikely, more so if Boris Johnson gets to be Prime Minister as his constituency neighbours it and he’s personally opposed, then BA will have even less reason to ditch their A380’s. Ironically it may be a reason other airlines also keep some of theirs.

As it is Heathrow has the largest number of A380’s from around the world coming and going because of its capacity restraints.

HiFly May have bitten off more than it can chew with the current aircraft. If it takes on more it’ll be fascinating to see how they’re used, and how often.

Right now HiFly is the only place some of these A380’s might find a home. For the rest, the grave yard and part-out are all they can hope for.