End of Thai A380’s, AerLingus, Virgin Atlantic sells 789’s, cancels routes

Thai Airways has listed a whole batch of aircraft for sale by auction, and while some were expected, the two A380’s, both 2013 vintage, were a little bit of a surprise.

The list is:

  • 10 Boeing 747-400s, delivered between 1993 and 2003
  • Six Boeing 777-200s, delivered between 1996 and 1998
  • Six Boeing 777-300s, delivered between 1998 and 2000
  • Six Airbus A340-600s, delivered between 2005 and 2008
  • Three Airbus A340-500s, delivered between 2005 and 2007
  • Two Airbus A380-800s, delivered in 2013
  • Two Boeing 737-400s, delivered between 1992 and 1993
  • One Airbus A300-600, delivered in 1993

The 747’s are the entire remaining fleet owned by the airline, and the two A380’s reduce the airline’s total to just 4, making it the second smallest fleet after that of ANA, and many would say totally unviable as an operation.

The A380’s were used on two primary routes during peak winter season, London Heathrow and Frankfurt, which because of the distance could use up two each (they rarely flew daily, usually three times a week). These were often supplemented by Thai 744’s and 777-300’s. The A380’s were also used on Tokyo and Paris routes on alternating schedules based on demand. Quite how four is ever really going to work, or make economic sense to run is hard to fathom. ANA will only be using their three on one route, for which they have been specifically designed. It seems this is just the beginning of the end for the A380’s at Thai.

The rest of the aircraft are obvious older versions of the 777 and the infamously inefficient A340-500/600’s.

Thai still has on order three to be leased 777-300ER’s, which are due for delivery, theoretically in the next 12 months.

It seems it’s also very near the end for Thai’s first class seating. Only the four A380’s will still have it, as only they and the 747’s carried it.

What will they get for the 744’s? Not a lot, even as scrap there are so many out there now their value is minimal, and all of the aircraft are fly-away’s in the condition they’re sold, Thai wants nothing more to do with them.

Virgin Atlantic sells 789’s, cancels Indian routes

Virgin Atlantic, which purchased six of its 17 789’s outright and has now sold two of those to Bain Capital, it seems to be G-VNYL and G-VMAP. The sale and leaseback deals tops Virgin Atlantic’s dollar account by $93 million.

It’s a slightly concerning move, as its hard to know how much cash the airline has on hand. It received a refinancing deal which nominally gave it around $1.2 billion and the income held back by credit card companies of over $400m was included in that. Quite how much it has to operate day to day is hard to judge.

It’s been operating a hugely successful cargo operation, using most of its A35K’s and all but one of its 17 787-9’s. However all ten of its A333’s and four A332’s are grounded. It’s recent sale and advanced booking generated a great deal of interest and forward bookings are said to have exceeded expectations, but most of those deals were for pre-April 2021 flying. And a lot will depend on vaccines, the new US administration in January and the restart of normalised travel to the US, its primary market by far.

Even more of a concern, the airline seems to have been forced, by a mix of travel restrictions and lack of demand, to cancel its Manchester-Delhi and Manchester-Mumbai route openings, both of which were set to launch January 5th 3 times a week on the A332’s. It is still planning on operating its Manchester to Islamabad route that only started on Dec 10th.

789 G-VOWS in the background, but G-VWHO flew the airlines maiden flight to Islamabad from Manchester

The airline admitted it is very much monitoring routes daily, and that its only focused on short term goals right now, with things ‘constantly changing’, but with emphasis on the profitable cargo operation, which in effect is all that’s keeping it going.

The airline is due to host a static flight, meet-and-greet on its last 744 at Heathrow, before that is flown off to Atlas Air and it will be used as a troop transport for US forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere on rotation.

Aer Lingus plans route expansion: UK-USA

IAG owned Aer Lingus is planning on launching routes from Manchester, England to the US in the summer of 2021 and is seeking permission form the UK & US DoT for the routes.

A new company, AerLingus UK will be established, but the flights will be sold as AerLingus and flown as EI codes. An AOC is expected to be granted by April.

The UK and the Republic of Ireland have a totally separate arrangement around air travel and access to each others countries by land and sea for their respective citizens, called the Common Travel Area, which avoids the complexity of the EU-UK, arrangements (Ireland is considered a domestic flight for both countries). However it doesn’t extend to full trade.

The move is a little more sinister than you might think. Virgin Atlantic now has up to 70% of the potential market from Manchester to the US and Thomas Cook having failed, leaves a number of routes with little or no competition. this is IAG’s way of keeping the heat off of BA and not making look as if BA is up to its usual tricks of trying to get at Virgin at every opportunity.

However that is exactly what they’re doing via the back door. Now its not that competition is bad, but this is a more than unusual approach to it. The answer lies in the fact Aer Lingus operates domestic Northern Ireland and Republic to Manchester so already has a base of operations, relatively easy to expand. BA doesn’t want to expand its work force further beyond domestic operations from Manchester.

The planned routes are to New York, Orlando and the only one not currently served, Boston. Aer Lingus did ask for BA codes to be available but says it has no plans for a code share yet.