Farewell: Final China Southern A380s Depart The Airline


China Southern Airlines announced around a year ago that it would retire its Airbus A380 fleet, a decision that didn’t necessarily come as a shock. However, in the past few days, we’ve seen the final two units head to the Californian desert.

This a sign of the times and following in the footsteps of Malaysia Airlines. An airline that also sent their last aircraft to storage this week as they determine the best course of action for them.

While already determined, it puts the nail in the coffin of China Southern’s operations of the A380. They were the first in China to fly the widebody and, at the peak period, flew a total of six.

China Southern Airlines Airbus A380 – Melv_L – MACASR

There are several reasons why China Southern decided to retire the A380.

Notably, the cost to operate the A380 remains high. While the aircraft is popular with passengers, it only works in specific markets. For an airline like China Southern, while once flying, there were always problems.

Smaller widebodies like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 have quickly worked to the forefront of airlines’ wishlists. However, China Southern reaps better rewards by flying twin-engined widebodies over quad engines.

The aviation market is also ever-changing. Trends are adapting and what is efficient now wasn’t the same 20 years ago. For China Southern to continue to fly the A380 in this climate would’ve been highly frowned upon.

Harking back to the 787s, 777s and Airbus A350s, all aircraft that can operate more efficiently. They offer a degree of flexibility over what the A380 provides airlines.

The Boeing 787 offers more flexibility for China Southern – byeangel

The pandemic that we’ve battled through allowed airlines to reevaluate their fleet. Whether they wanted to or not and determine what aircraft types were surplus to requirements.

For China Southern, it became more than apparent that continuing with the world’s largest passenger plane would’ve hurt the business. They were an airline already severely struggling due to the pandemic.

Asia is one of the most demanding markets and one still not recovering at rates required for the airlines based there. Especially for Chinese-based airlines.

It means that having widebody aircraft at this point is an inconvenience for these airlines. One can only imagine then, therefore, just how impactful retaining a double-decker quad-engined plane would’ve been at this point.

China Southern’s removal of its final two Airbus A380S can only be described as an end of an era. It is also a logical step for the airline, a decision made for the carrier’s long term.

Ultimately, though, there’s more to the decision. While some airlines bring the aircraft back to service, others have already removed the aircraft for good, a sign of the industry adjusting and airlines being forced to adapt to those changes to survive.

Daniel Fowkes
23 Dec 2022
· Aircraft 
· Airlines 

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