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Qatar Airways ‘reluctantly’ flies A380 after two-years parked

written by Isabella Richards | November 11, 2021

Qatar Airbus A380 at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport. (MEL) (Source: Aviation Australia archives)

One of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 jets returned to the skies for the first time in over 18 months as the carrier “reluctantly” enters it into service again due to ongoing capacity shortage.

The superjumbo lifted off from Doha International Airport earlier this week to Hamad International Airport, the state-owned airline said in a statement.

“The recent grounding of 19 Qatar Airways A350 fleet has left us with no alternative but to temporarily bring some of our A380 fleet back on key winter routes,” said chief executive Akbar Al Baker.

In August, the carrier was forced by the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority to ground 19 of its A350 jets due to ongoing issues over the aircraft’s body, which was deteriorating faster than expected.

Al Baker said the issue “remains an unresolved matter between Qatar Airways and the manufacturer for which the root cause is yet to be understood”.

It’s expected five of the airline’s 10 A380 jets will be brought back into service on a “temporary basis” to support popular winter routes such as London Heathrow and Paris from 15 December.

In the meantime, the company also returned its A330 jets – one of its remaining long-haul workhorses – as it now faces a surge in travel demand during the post-pandemic recovery.

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In late September, Qatar alluded to the possibility of returning the jet it once called a “mistake” to purchase in an interview.

Al Baker at the time said the company would initially fly five but may resort to entering all 10 into service yet again.

It comes 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.

Al Baker said the “difficult decision reflects gravity of the A350 issue”, but it will only remain a short-term plan as the company prefers more “fuel-efficient, twin-engine aircraft”.

“We continue to strongly urge Airbus to prioritise their investigations into the conclusive root cause of the issue affecting the A350 aircraft type, and ensure it proposes a permanent solution at the earliest opportunity to repair the damage and correct the underlying root cause.”

The wide-body aircraft was the largest passenger airliner being manufactured, but on 14 February 2019, Airbus announced it would no longer produce the jet after 2021 following low demand.

While airlines have opted for narrowbody aircraft to lead the post-pandemic recovery, numerous companies have returned to the jet after nearing a quicker-than-expected bounce back to travel normalcy.

British Airways, which now remains the last airline in Europe to operate the aircraft – as Lufthansa and Air France both retired its aircraft last year – signed an extension to return its A380 jets in November.

The company has 12 in its fleet and has extended its contract with them for a minimum of five years beginning in August 2022 to 2027 earliest.

Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier also returned the jet after being placed in storage for almost two years, touching down in Sydney on Tuesday.

The Flying Kangaroo had initially intended to keep its 12 A380s mothballed in the California desert until late 2023, in light of Australia’s fast-paced vaccination rollout.

4 Comments

  • Peter

    says:

    Perhaps the reluctant reintroduction of the A380 by Qatar is linked to the A350 issue between Mr Al Baker & Airbus? I am confident that high profile airlines like British Airways, Emirates, QANTAS & Singapore Airlines will enjoy the support of the majority of passengers who rate the A380 as their first choice of aircraft.

  • Adrian P

    says:

    Has any one investigated the possibility of improvements in fuel efficiency flying in the cruise with 2 engines on idle as an A380 will fly on 2 engines. The old maritime version of the Nimrod used to do that.
    Also the A380 aerodynamics were compromised by the wingspan being less than ideal to enable airport access, perhaps increasing the wingspan utilising wingtips that fold down or swing forward might help.
    With the 777X requiring folding wings perhaps it is time to introduce Code letter G to the Aerodrome Reference Code for aircraft with a wingspan 80 m but < 100 m

    • Andrew

      says:

      @ Adrian – Interesting concept, however the Nimrod (and Comet on which it was based) had relatively small engine intakes and those engines were located inside the wing structure, hence not too much drag penalty when the Nimrod shut down 2 for long range range patrols.
      Compare that to the large diameter high bypass turbofans on an A380 and there is a significant amount of drag from the 2 inoperative engines. Also, the remaining 2 engines used in the cruise would be at a much higher thrust setting than usual which not only causes more engine fatigue, but would be unworkably inefficient for the numbers to work. Not to mention the resultant lower cruise speed, and lower (inefficient) cruise altitude. As for retofittting longer folding wingtips, the engineering on that would be cost prohibitive.

    • Steve

      says:

      Shutting down engines for fuel savings, on any four engine maritime patrol aircraft was done for loitering on station not for transit at altitude. A380s are not loitering and need all four engines operating to get to high altitude where they are ‘efficient’ relative to lower altitude.

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