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Photo: Air France

Air France to cut A380 fleet in half

Air France’s new chief executive Benjamin Smith has backed reducing the number of the cost-burning A380s in the fleet.

The graceful giant of the skies is looking more like an endangered species as the number of A380s in Air France’s fleet will be cut in half from 2020.

The superjumbo will continue to be renovated, Benjamin Smith, Air France’s chief executive says, but its number will progressively be decreased from ten to five, the financial daily Les Échos reports.

It had been speculated in recent weeks that the A380 could be axed from the Air France ranks altogether, but the airline’s new chief has opted to keep a few of them in the fleet for now.

The installation of a new cabin interior on the remaining A380s will start in the autumn of 2020 – by which time the process of extracting five of the aircraft type from the fleet will have begun.

Of the ten A380s currently in service at Air France, five are leased. Two of these will be returned to the lessor when their contracts expire at the end of 2019 and the other three leased planes will follow.

The A380 remains popular among passengers but its operating costs are too high. It burns more fuel than a Boeing 777, so the 777 will remain an integral part of Air France’s fleet.

In 2017, Air France negotiated with Airbus to replace the two last A380s it had on order with three A350s, reports.

Technical problems
There have also been operational issues – and if one flight is cancelled, a large number of passengers has to be dealt with. Around 20 A380 flights were cancelled last summer due to technical problems, while just over a year ago one of the four engines on an A380 exploded in mid-air en route to Los Angeles.

The popularity of the A380 is falling in France, in part because it is the only long-haul aircraft in the fleet still waiting for the new comprehensive cabin interior upgrade.

The interior has already been fitted on the airline’s Boeing 777 and 787 and Airbus A330 aircraft. The cost to renovate the five aircraft that will remain at Air France will amount to €225 million.

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