ANA has sent its first A380 to Xiamen, China, for scheduled heavy maintenance this week. The Japanese carrier was the most recent Airbus A380 customer, receiving its first plane in March 2019. While currently in storage, ANA generally uses its A380s on the highly popular Tokyo Narita-Honolulu routes.
According to Aviation Wire, ANA’s first A380, registered JA381A, has made its way to Xiamen yesterday for maintenance. The aircraft will undergo C checks at the facility, which are undertaken every 18 months to two years. The planned maintenance was delayed slightly due to COVID-19 restrictions but remains within the two-year period.
C checks are one of three (A, C, D) scheduled maintenance checks planes undergo in their lifespans. This heavy maintenance protocol will see the plane undergo extensive system checks, ensuring door seals are safe, APU fuel line inspections, and inspecting the engine air intake valves for cracks.
While some airlines with large fleets have their own maintenance base for routine checks, others send their jets to external facilities. Since ANA only operates three A380 it makes sense to send the planes to an external facility. However, doing so is a relatively expensive investment for the airline.
ANA’s A380s feature a four-class cabin of eight first class suites, 56 business class seats, 73 in premium economy, and 383 in economy. With a capacity of 520 passengers, the plane is the largest in ANA’s fleet and is meant for a particular route: Tokyo-Honolulu. The strong business and leisure traffic between the cities makes an A380 sustainable exclusively for this route.
After ordering the planes in 2015, ANA received its first A380 in March 2019. It entered service in May of the same year. The next aircraft joined the fleet in May 2019 and allowed the carrier to increase frequencies on the route. However, the third plane’s delivery did not go as per schedule.
ANA’s final A380, painted in a unique orange “Flying Honu” livery, is yet to make its way to Tokyo. The plane was delivered to ANA in November but it is yet to fly the plane over to its permanent home. Considering the plane has no routes to fly for now, it makes sense to leave it in Airbus’ care until it’s needed.
While the A380 is not flying its signature Narito-Honolulu route, it has found itself scheduled on some special flights instead. ANA has used the A380 on several “flights to nowhere,” giving passengers the chance to fly without stepping out of the country and on special Christmas and New Year flights.
While there has been talk of a possible Hawaii-Tokyo travel bubble in the future, it is yet to bear any fruit. For the next few months, it’s unlikely the A380 returns to commercial service. However, with vaccines rolling out and Olympics around the corner, expect to see the ANA A380 skies soon.