Emirates has begun the process of bringing back its fleet of Airbus A380s into service, initially on flights to Paris and London.
The aircraft, which forms the backbone of the Dubai-based airline’s fleet, returned to the skies on Wednesday for the first time in nearly four months. All of the carrier’s 115 superjumbos were grounded in March as the coronavirus crisis escalated.
Emirates will operate A380s on routes from Dubai (DXB) to London Heathrow (LHR) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), with the aircraft set to be deployed on daily flights to Amsterdam (AMS) from Aug. 1. On the same day, the airline will also introduce a second daily A380 service to LHR.
Data published by OAG Schedules Analyser shows Emirates provided A380 service to 51 destinations from DXB prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering about 650,000 weekly seats across more than 1,200 flights.
Speaking in May, CEO Tim Clark said the A380—which Airbus will cease manufacturing of from next year—would continue to play an important part in the Gulf carrier’s future, dismissing rumours that a large portion would be permanently decommissioned.
Emirates’ faith in the type comes as other carriers continue to retire or mothball their A380 fleets. In May, Air France confirmed its remaining nine of the aircraft would not be returning to service, while Lufthansa’s remaining superjumbos are not expected to return to the skies for two years.
Air France originally planned to phase out the superjumbo by 2022, but the date has been brought forward in light of the current crisis facing the aviation industry.
Five of the A380s are owned by the SkyTeam member or on a finance lease, while four are on operating leases. All nine are currently in storage and will therefore not return to scheduled service.
Lufthansa, meanwhile, brought forward six A380 retirements in April and is retiring a seventh, halving its original A380 fleet from 14 to seven. It may also be two years before those seven are reintroduced to service.
Emirates’ decision to reintroduce the A380 to its flight schedule comes as more destinations return to its network. Flights to Athens (ATH), Barcelona (BCN), Geneva (GVA), Glasgow (GLA), Larnaca (LCA), Munich (MUC) and Rome (FCO) have already resumed this week, with Malé (MLE) and Washington Dulles (IAD) restarting July 16 and Brussels (BRU) and Tehran (IKA) July 17.
Flights to Guangzhou (CAN), Addis Ababa (ADD) and Oslo (OSL) will restart on July 25, Aug. 1 and Aug. 4 respectively. This will take the airline's passenger network to 62 destinations in August.
The latest expansion follows the United Arab Emirates reopening its borders for international travelers on July 7.
All passengers arriving by air will have to complete a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is the COVID-19 test accepted by health authorities. Tourists are given the option to show their PCR test results upon arrival or carry out a test in the airport.
Photo credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week