Amid the impact of the global health crisis, Qatar Airways grounded its Airbus A380 aircraft in spring. Heading into 2021, the widebody remains on the ground. This week, Simple Flying had the opportunity to speak with Qatar Airways SVP of Revenue Management, Alliances and Strategy, Mark Drusch, about the airline’s plans for its fleet next year.
Plenty of patience
Drusch explained that there is still a lot of work surrounding the superjumbo, even if it’s not in action. Nonetheless, despite the extensive requirements to maintain the aircraft, there is no rush to return it to the skies. However, if the landscape changes, the airline is prepared to start the redeployment process.
“When the airplane is out of action, you still have to maintain the aircraft. You’ve got to rotate the tires, you’ve got to rotate the engines, you’ve got to check all the fluids, the oils, and all the lubricants. So obviously, all of those maintenance events will continue to be accomplished. It’s just part of what you do as a business. But beyond that, until we see some real need to fly that aircraft, we will continue to maintain them on the ground,” Drusch told Simple Flying.
“We only have a fleet of 10 of them, so it’s not like it’s a big issue for us. If the market continues to rebound in a slow, measured pace, we’ve got the right fleet to do it. If there’s something that accelerates, we have the opportunity to evaluate whether or not we restart some of those A380s back in the air.”
A strong fleet
Nonetheless, Qatar Airways is seeing benefits when it comes to its sustainability efforts amid the grounding of its A380s. The carrier is continuing to take delivery of more Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350 aircraft. Drusch highlights that the latter emits almost half the carbon pollutants that the A380 does.
The airline’s priority is to improve efficiency. Notably, it recently launched an offset program that is designed to allow customers to choose to offset the carbon that they are producing. So, its approach with its fleet ultimately helps it with its goals.
Currently, the firm’s 787-9s are serving as passenger freighters, primarily because the demand is strong and Qatar Airways didn’t have all of the Qsuites ready to put them into passenger service yet. However, if passenger demand increases and the seats are ready, they will be introduced on commercial routes.
Moreover, this model and the operator’s A350s are well suited on routes to the likes of North America. The A380 is likely to remain in storage until at least 2021. So, as the industry recovers, the other types will handle long-haul operations well.
We have to wait and see
Regardless, it is hard to predict how exactly passenger activity will return. The pandemic continues to rock the industry across the continents. However, if the vaccine rollout is successful, and there is a requirement for greater capacity in 2021, the A380 aircraft will nonetheless be ready to return to action if needed.
What are your thoughts about the plans for Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 fleet? What do you expect regarding the aircraft’s future operations? Let us know what you think of the prospects in the comment section.