Why British Airways Wanted More Airbus A380s

Daniel Fowkes
08 Nov 2023
· Airlines 
· Analysis 
British Airways Airbus A380-841 landing

The Airbus A380 is a marvel of engineering in the aviation world. It’s the world’s largest commercial plane, with several high-ranking airlines flying the type globally, one being British Airways.

British Airways currently has 12 A380s at its disposal. A figure that represents a decisive rebound following the effects of the global pandemic.

Despite a fleet of 12 strong, British Airways has in the past identified interest in acquiring additional Airbus A380s on the cheap. Specifically, reports identified that six total units were of interest, which would’ve grown the fleet to 18.

Examining British Airways’ Operation

British Airways is the United Kingdom’s flag carrier and operates a network primarily focusing on its hub at London Heathrow. This works with a more minor operation out of London Gatwick.

British Airways’ focus on London Heathrow, which has been running at capacity for years, gave the carrier an appetite for larger aircraft. It currently has commitments for the 777X, too, an upcoming high-capacity widebody from Boeing.

British Airways’ A380 Operation

As aforementioned, British Airways operates 12 Airbus A380s to destinations globally.

These Airbus A380s will typically fly on BA’s most popular routes. This can include but won’t be limited to in the past Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, and even Vancouver.

However, throughout the pandemic, British Airways were forced to ground their A380s like most companies. The carrier, though, remained one of the few airlines that always expressed its interest in returning the type to service when demand returned.

British Airways Wants More A380s?

British Airways in 2019, through the International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh, announced their interest in leasing another six units of the world’s largest passenger plane into their fleet.

But why? Here is the most likely reason why their interest in the world’s largest commercial aircraft was there but also faded simultaneously. One possible reason we saw British Airways want further A380s follows the ongoing situation at London Heathrow

The airport is running at total capacity, especially pre-pandemic. Slots were, therefore, a struggle to acquire and had become very expensive. A slot at the airport during an optimal time had been quoted in the tens of millions of pounds.

Therefore, if British Airways wanted to retain capacity or grow, it needed to expand. However, instead of flying more flights, what they were going to be able to do was deploy further A380s.

For example, it’s Los Angeles flights years back. It served up to three times daily with the 747 and went down into two daily A380 flights. British Airways, at that point, still had roughly the same seats despite a change in equipment and a reduction in flights.

Struggling To Find The Right Price

Even though there was the need for additional Airbus A380s, British Airways eventually turned them down. This comes as the price was not suitable for them. The IAG CEO, Willie Walsh, was quoted as saying.

If we get the right price, six more Airbus A380s will make sense.

Willie Walsh, Former International Airlines Group CEO

The Importance Of The Second Hand Market

The second-hand market for so many aircraft programs is crucially important. It’s a key reason why we see so many aircraft fly for close to 30 years right around the world.

Now, granted, they may not spend 30 years with the primary carrier, but the likelihood of them going down to another airline, whether smaller or more in a niche market, is very high. We’ve seen this take place with the 737 and the A320 family very frequently in the past couple of years—also an honourable mention for the 747.

The Airbus A380s Lack Of Second Hand Market

For the world’s largest passenger plane, the A380, well, that second-hand market has never really existed. While we did see HI Fly acquire a lone A380 that no longer flies with the company for various reasons, the Airbus A380s that have been retired by their customers have headed for scrapping.

It’s an unfortunate fate for an aircraft that, in reality, is not very old. Still, it does highlight how British Airways was the only company vocally interested in bringing additional second-hand A380s on at the right price. However, the cost couldn’t be agreed upon.

British Airways, though, and the A380 share a common goal of connecting passengers worldwide, but sadly, the bond will never expand with additional A380s. This verdict comes with the double-decker aircraft production ceasing and, in addition, the airline ruling out any possibility of, say, seeing other A380s eventually join on.

Watch the video of this article.

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