The A380 is nowhere near as legendary or as successful as the 747. That said, it certainly has its place in aviation history. It is, without a doubt, also an aircraft that many aviation enthusiasts – and even members of the general public – want to log a flight on.
While the A380 was a prime candidate for grounding and retirement when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, luckily, most of the operators have brought their Superjumbos out of storage and back into service. That said, there are also airlines that retired these relatively young aircraft for good.
This article looks at all of the Airbus A380 operators, past and present.
|All Nippon Airways||2019||3||2|
|China Southern Airlines||2011||5||0|
|Hi Fly||2018||1||0||Ex-Singapore Airlines|
|Thai Airways||2012||6||0||Might reactivate|
Airlines Operating the Airbus A380 in 2023
As of August 2023, ten airlines including ANA, Asiana Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Korean Air, Lufthansa Qantas, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines are flying Airbus A380 on scheduled passenger flights.
ANA All Nippon Airways
ANA ordered three A380s in 2016 in what was likely a move to save Skymark Airlines from having to declare bankruptcy. The first two of those were delivered in 2019. At that point, ANA became the last direct customer of Airbus to introduce the A380 to its fleet. The third one was expected to join the fleet in 2020 but was eventually delivered in 2021.
The airline decided to equip its A380s with a total of 520 seats. All of the 383 economy class seats are located on the aircraft’s main deck. The upper deck sports 8 first class suites, 56 staggered business class seats, and 73 premium economy seats.
The most interesting thing about ANA’s A380s is the fact that the airline acquired them to only use them on the Tokyo Narita – Honolulu route.
Asiana Airlines was the second of the two major South Korean airlines to introduce the A380 into its fleet. It took delivery of its first two A380s in 2014, another two in 2015, and the final two in 2016. As such, the airline received a total of six A380s. That said, all of them were grounded at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and not all of them have been reactivated yet.
Each of Asiana’s A380s features 495 seats including 12 first class suites on the main deck and 66 staggered business class seats on the upper deck. The remaining 417 economy class seats are spread across both decks with the majority of them being located on the main deck. Interestingly, the first class suites are now marketed as premium business class.
The Asiana A380 can be caught on flights from Seoul to Bangkok, Sydney, Frankfurt, and Los Angeles.
British Airways put the first of the total of twelve A380s it received into service back in 2013. Rather than deploying it on long-haul flights right away, it chose the short London Heathrow – Frankfurt route for its inaugural A380 flight to give its crew members a chance to get familiar with the Superjumbo. While the airline has considered adding extra, second-hand A380s to its fleet, that has not materialized.
British Airways’ A380s are in a four-class configuration and feature a total of 469 seats. Of those, 257 (14 first class, 44 business class, 199 economy class) seats are on the main deck and the remaining 212 (53 business class, 55 premium economy class, 104 economy class) seats are on the smaller upper deck.
All of the British Airways A380s operate out of London Heathrow airport and fly to Dubai, Johanessburg, and a variety of destinations in the United States.
Having received 123 A380s from Airbus, Emirates is by far the largest A380 customer in the world. In fact, it is arguably the only airline that found a business model thriving on the Superjumbo’s capacity. While some of the 123 have been retired, the airline still operates a sizeable fleet of the type.
Emirates’ A380s come in four different configurations – one of those is two-class (business and economy), two are three-class (first, business, and economy), and its latest one is four-class (first, business, premium economy, and economy).
Two things are worth noting about Emirates’ A380s:
- The two-class configuration is, with 615 seats, the highest-capacity A380 in operation
- The aircraft equipped with first class come with an onboard shower accessible to first class passengers
Considering Emirates’ extensive route network and the fact that almost half of its fleet is made up of the A380, it’s no surprise that it is the only airline that flies the A380 to all six inhabited continents. It flies the A380 to over 40 destinations, some more than daily. Most notably, it flies to London Heathrow six times a day and to London Gatwick three times a day for a whopping total of nine daily A380 flights between Dubai and London.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways received its first A380 at the end of 2014, more than half a decade after its Dubai-based rival. From that point until mid-2017, it received another nine airframes for a total of ten A380s.
Etihad Airways’ A380s can carry up to 486 passengers in four classes. They’re equipped with 405 economy class seats on the main deck, 70 “Business Studios,” and 9 “First Apartments” on the upper deck. In addition to that, each of Etihad’s A380s also features the most luxurious travel class to have found its way onto regular airline flights – “The Residence” which is a three-room cabin with a bedroom, a living room, and a private bathroom with a shower.
Interestingly, Etihad Airways was the first to configure its A380s with a single aisle in first class. It is also one of the only two airlines – together with Emirates – to offer showers to first class passenger on its A380s (or on scheduled flights in general).
While Etihad’s A380s were grounded in 2020, the airline reactivated some of them in 2023. Before grounding, the aircraft were primarily flying between Abu Dhabi and London, New York, Paris, and Sydney. Nowadays, the aircraft can only be flown on the Abu Dhabi – London route.
The South Korean flagship airline, Korean Air, received its first A380 from Airbus in mid-2011. It received four more that year, one in 2012, and two in 2013 and 2014 each for a total of ten. That said, like other airlines, Korean Air grounded its entire A380 fleet when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Fortunately, it brought some of the aircraft back into service since then.
Korean Air’s A380s come in a three-class configuration seating a total of 407 passengers. Their upper deck is in an all-business-class configuration with 94 seats while the lower deck features 12 first class seats and 301 economy class seats.
The Korean Air A380 can be flown regularly from Seoul Incheon airport to destinations in Asia and the United States. In the past, they also used to operate to London and Paris in Europe.
Lufthansa was the second European airline to introduce the A380 into its fleet after Air France. It took delivery of its first A380 in May 2010, and later on, it went on to receive further thirteen. Even before the pandemic, Lufthansa announced plans to cut its A380 fleet down to eight airframes. In 2020, the airline grounded all of its A380s.
After reversing its decision to retire the aircraft permanently, some are back to service now. Lufthansa A380s are equipped with 509 seats in four classes.
In the past, Lufthansa used to operate the A380 out of both of its hubs, Frankfurt and Munich. Among other places, it flew to Delhi, Miami, New York, Singapore, and Los Angeles. Nowadays, they only operate flights out of Munich.
Qantas initially ordered twelve A380s in 2001. Then, it topped that order up with another eight airframes in 2006. However, in February 2019 – just before Airbus announced the A380 program’s cancellation – Qantas revealed that it had canceled the top up order. With that, the airline ended up receiving twelve A380s from the original order between 2008 and 2011. That said, not all of the aircraft operate anymore.
Qantas A380s are equipped with 14 first and 341 economy class seats on the main deck. On the upper deck they feature 64 business, 35 premium economy, and 30 economy class seats. That brings the capacity of these four-class A380s to a total of 484 passengers.
The Qantas Superjumbo currently flies two routes out of Sydney including a one-stop route to London via Singapore. In the past, the aircraft also used to operate out of Melbourne. That might happen once again when more of the airline’s A380s return into service.
Qatar Airways introduced the A380 into its fleet in 2014, and between then and 2018, it took delivery of a total of ten A380s.
Not finding much success with the high-capacity aircraft, Qatar Airways had plans to start retiring the type in 2024. As such, many were expecting the aircraft to never come out of storage post-COVID-19. Shortage of capacity, however, resulted in Qatar Airways reactivating its A380s.
Qatar Airways A380s are equipped with a total of 517 seats in three classes. The premium cabins – including 8 first class and 48 business class seats – are located on the upper deck while economy class is split between the two decks with the vast majority of the seats being on the main deck.
In the past, the Qatar Airways A380 could be flown between its hub in Doha and Frankfurt, Guangzhou, Paris, Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. Today, the route selection is considerably more limited.
Having taken delivery of its first A380 all the way back in 2007, Singapore Airlines was the launch customer of the A380. With 24 A380s in its fleet at the peak, it used to be the second largest operator of the type after Emirates. Since then, however, Singapore Airlines’ A380 fleet size was reduced due to planned retirements as well as COVID-19.
While in the past, Singapore Airlines used to operate A380s in a number of different configurations, the airframes that are active now have all been delivered or retrofitted with the airline’s latest product. The most unique part of the product is its first class which is in a single-aisle layout and consists of suites that include both a chair and a bed.
Currently, Singapore Airlines A380s can be flown to a number of destinations around the world. Perhaps the most interesting is a fifth freedom route from London to New York. Some of the destinations no longer served by the Singapore Airlines A380 include Paris, Tokyo, and Zurich.
Airlines That Retired the Airbus A380
As of January 2023, five airlines that used to operate the A380 do not do so anymore. Those include four of the operators – Air France, China Southern Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and Thai Airways – that got their A380s directly from Airbus and one – Hi Fly Malta – which got its sole A380 second-hand.
Air France introduced the Airbus A380 into its fleet back in 2009 – putting it into commercial service on November 23, 2009, on a flight from Paris CDG and New York JFK. After that, its A380 fleet grew to ten aircraft at the peak. While Air France had another two A380s on order, it arranged with Airbus to switch those for the smaller A350 instead.
Unfortunately, Air France doesn’t operate the A380 anymore. It retired the first of the ten aircraft back in 2019 and then decided to speed up its retirement plans when the pandemic started.
When active, Air France’s A380s used to have 516 seats in four classes. Those included 9 first class seats on the main deck, 80 business class and 38 premium economy class seats on the upper deck, and 389 economy class seats spread across the two decks (359 on the main deck and 30 on the upper deck).
The aircraft were based at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and among other destinations, used to serve major US airports like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco; Mexico City; and major destinations in Asia like Tokyo and Shanghai.
China Southern Airlines
China Southern Airlines was, with just five A380s in its fleet at the peak, the second smallest A380 customer after ANA. The first two of China Southern’s five airframes were delivered at the end of 2011. Another two followed in 2012, and the last one joined its fleet in 2013.
Surprisingly considering the size of the A380 and the country’s population, China Southern was the only Chinese airline to operate the A380. Unfortunately, the airline retired the A380 on November 7, 2022, when the aircraft operated its last revenue flight from Los Angeles to Guangzhou.
In addition to Los Angeles, China Southern Airlines also used the A380 on flights from Guangzhou to Amsterdam and Beijing in the past.
All five of the China Southern A380s were equipped with a total of 506 seats in three classes. The main deck featured 8 first class seats and 352 of the aircraft’s 428 economy class seats. On the upper deck, 70 business class seats and the remaining 76 economy class seats could be found.
With just one A380 in its fleet back when it used to operate the type, the charter operator Hi Fly from Malta was the smallest operator of the type. It was also the world’s first and so far only operator to acquire a second-hand A380. Specifically, it acquired Singapore Airlines’ third A380 (9V-SKC) back in July 2018.
The most interesting (although understandable considering how expensive reconfiguring an A380 would be) part about Hi Fly’s A380 was the fact that they kept Singapore Airlines’ seats. The airline decided to remove its premium economy class cabin, though, replacing it with economy class instead.
The aircraft was equipped with 471 seats in what used to be Singapore Airlines’ original three-class configuration of the aircraft. The whole main deck of the aircraft is taken up by 333 economy class seats while the upper deck includes 12 first class suites (with the pairs of those in the middle section combining into double beds), 60 business class seats, and 66 economy class seats.
Since Hi Fly is a charter airline, the aircraft operated on a variety of routes for a variety of other airlines. In the past, it did some flights for Air Austral and Norwegian among others. Unfortunately, the unique A380 was withdrawn from use at the end of 2020 and appears to have been scrapped afterward.
Malaysia Airlines received the first of its six A380s in 2012 and initially put the type on its flagship route from Kuala Lumpur to London Heathrow. After that, having gotten into financial difficulties and not being able to utilize the aircraft efficiently, the airline tried selling its A380s.
While the sell off did not materialize and the airline continued to fly them sporadically, the Superjumbos were grounded in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. Unlike some of the other airlines, perhaps unsurprisingly, Malaysia Airlines decided not to reactivate them.
When they did fly, the Malaysia Airlines A380s could carry up to 486 passengers in three classes. Their main deck was equipped with 8 first class seats and 350 out of the 412 economy class seats on the aircraft. The upper deck sported 66 lie-flat business class seats and the remaining 62 economy class seats.
In the past, the aircraft flew from Kuala Lumpur to London, Tokyo, and Saudi Arabia among other places.
Thai Airways used to operate six A380s. The first of these was delivered to the airline in September 2012 and was introduced on the Bangkok to Singapore and Hong Kong routes the following month. After that, the Thai Airways A380 was put on its first long-haul route, Bangkok – Frankfurt.
Unfortunately, all of Thai’s A380s were stored in March 2020 and haven’t flown since. While there are rumors some of the aircraft might be reactivated, at this point there appear to be no solid plans.
Thai Airways A380s are equipped with a total of 507 seats in three classes. The premium cabins including 12 first and 60 business class seats can be found on the upper deck while the 435 economy class seats are split across the two decks.
Back when they were in service, Thai Airways A380s used to operate, among others, flights from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi to London, Osaka, Paris, and Tokyo.
With most of the A380 operators grounding when the pandemic broke out, for quite some time it looked like the A380’s days might have been numbered – at least for most airlines other than Emirates. Luckily, however, with demand returning, quite a few operators reactivated the A380s.
While there are not as many A380 operators as there were a couple of years ago, the aircraft remains relatively easy to fly on, especially thanks to Emirates.
To learn more about this aircraft type, you might also want to read our article about Airbus A380’s history.
First published on 2019/05/24 and periodically updated since then. Last updated on 2023/08/11 to include the latest information about the number of active airframes and to reflect Etihad Airways and Lufthansa having reactivated their A380s.