Qatar Airways’ CEO has said the company is set on returning its Airbus A380 jets to the sky, despite previously stating the carrier would “never” fly it again.
In an interview with Executive Traveller, chief executive Akbar Al Baker told the publication it has “no alternative… but to fly the A380s” due to the groundings of numerous A350 jets.
“I think by early November we’ll be starting to fly the A380s again,” said Mr Al Baker.
The Doha-based airline has 10 of the jumbo jets in its fleet – it welcomed its first in 2014.
“At the moment we are looking at flying five, but we may have to fly all 10.”
This comes shortly after Qatar announced it was grounding at least half of the jets permanently in January, after almost a year of not flying the aircraft.
Since the pandemic paused most long-haul travel, numerous airlines permanently grounded or tendered the jets, unable to find long-term use for it.
“We grounded the A380s at the beginning of the pandemic, and we never wanted to fly them again,” Mr Al Baker said.
But despite that, he said “with the issues we are having with the Airbus A350s,” the company has decided to unexpectedly return the aircraft.
“We have to find capacity for our passengers who need airlines to take them to their loved ones for Christmas.”
Qatar has faced numerous issues with Airbus over the years, concerning quality control and delivery threats.
These issues began when problems with the aircraft’s wings arose in 2012 when the first set of A380 jets delivered to Qatar Airways appeared to have tiny cracks in the wings.
Mr Al Baker threatened Airbus to amend these issues by delivering entirely re-manufactured aircrafts.
Then in August, adding to the latest debacle, the carrier was forced to ground 13 of its A350 jets due to ongoing issues over the aircraft’s body, which was deteriorating faster than expected.
In the meantime, the company returned its A330 jets – one of its remaining long-haul workhorses – but is now facing a surge in travel demand during the post-pandemic recovery.
The airline only days ago recorded a US$4.1 billion 2020-21 fiscal year loss – largely blaming the grounding of the A380 and A330 – and is now already preparing for the wide-body to return.
Many A380 pilots who were stood down earlier in the pandemic are now being rehired, according to the CEO.
“We are doing what no other airline has done – we will give them the same salary package that they had when they left,” Mr Al Baker said.
The pilots will begin re-training after having no flight duties for almost two years, while the aircraft will fly without passengers for up to three weeks until the pilots are “back to currency”, Mr Al Baker said.