Airbus has privately admitted it’s bothered by the end of life of so many A380’s and the speed at which airlines are planning on taking them out of service.
The reason isn’t about sales of new ones, the last leaves the factory early in 2021.
The issue is the longevity of its parts and supply business – which has been expected to run for at least 35 years. The cascade of retirements is suggesting they’ll be pushed getting that to 20 and in nothing like the volumes expected.
And lack of parts volume means lack of suppliers which in turn decreases parts availability, speeding up retirements. Once the retired aircraft are parted out that source of spares soon becomes unviable too, leading to more scraping and low prices for used aircraft.
It’s a never ending downward cycle, but this is one with a far steeper decline than say, the 744 and even the A343.
In order to rectify that and keep these massive aircraft viable for longer, Airbus is addressing the one big issue that airlines are complaining about most: it costs far to much to reconfigure and refurbish the two deck cabins.
British Airways declined used aircraft because of that cost, estimated at nearly US$50 million per aircraft.
AirFrance cited the huge refurbishment cost of the A380 as being one of the drivers behind its decision to retire its own aircraft. Qatar has indicated the same concern – and they have one of the most expensive cabin fits of any airline in the world.
In order to get anyone interested in a quality used aircraft they need to be able to change the interior to their own brand and requirement. HiFly simply kept the outdated but still serviceable Singapore Airlines interior, but that’s not an option for most airlines.
Airbus is working with Singapore Airlines to offer a competitive refurbishment programme to all operators, having recently completed the airlines first full refits.
They believe they can slash the price by 30% and make it far more attractive, especially if they work with leasing companies to manage the follow on cost.
Time will tell, but it seems unlikely anyone will take on these aircraft in viable numbers – especially when one of their biggest weaknesses remains mechanical reliability – engine issues are the biggest complaint from operators.