Qatar Airways CEO on the future of his small A380 fleet
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker caused a stir this week, saying he believed the purchase of the Airbus A380s was the airline’s biggest mistake. It’s a rare admission from an airline CEO who rarely backs down. Qatar Airways has a fleet of 10 Airbus A380s. All are currently inactive. Al Baker’s take on the plane doesn’t bode well for their future.
“It was good when it was launched in 2002,”Akbar Al Baker told Simple Flying in an exclusive webinar interview this week. But with rising fuel prices and growing awareness of the environmental impact of flying, the mega jumbo is no longer a good match for its time.
With demand for international travel at historically low levels, the A380 unsuitability is more pronounced than ever.
“What’s the point of deploying seats when you only have a 10% load factor in a big plane?” Al Baker asked rhetorically in reference to the A380.
Qatar Airways CEO says it hurts to keep flying A380s
Qatar Airways CEO revealed earlier this year that half of the airline’s A380 will no longer fly. But at the time, he did not rule out the five remaining A380s circling the world again. However, in April, Al Baker gave a strong clue about Qatar’s future strategy and the place of the A380.
There is no future for the A380. It was the wrong plane at the wrong time… for the operator, it’s really painful to keep them in the sky. he said to Sam Chui.
Akbar Al Baker hammered home that post this week when speaking to Simple Flying’s Joanna Bailey. While the CEO has not officially confirmed the end of the A380 at Qatar Airways, its future of flying to Doha seems less likely by the week.
Two key factors hamper the continued viability of the A380
According to Al Baker, A380 operators face two major problems. The aircraft is very expensive to operate and its emissions are high. Admitting that many passengers were fans of the plane, he said there were higher priorities.
“Environmental damage should be the priority, not comfort.”
Depending on the weight, fuel price and flight conditions, it is estimated that it will cost between $ 26,000 and $ 29,000 per hour to fly an A380. Let’s say it takes 14 hours to fly from Doha to Seattle. Spreading the estimated cost down the middle, the operating cost for this flight, if you are using an A380, would be in the range of $ 385,000. The operating costs of the Boeing 777-200ER Qatar Airways currently used on this route are less than half of this amount.
And there are more efficient planes available for Al Baker than the Boeing 777-200. The CEO is a big fan of the Boeing Dreamliners and the Airbus A350. Along with the long-awaited and much-delayed Boeing 777X, these three aircraft types will form the backbone of Qatar Airways’ long-haul fleet for the foreseeable future.
In addition to saving money, these three planes tick the boxes when it comes to minimizing the environmental impact of flight. Qatar Airways is committed to reducing its net emissions by 2050.
“We will continue to invest in airplanes, which emit less emissions, and airplanes without the environment”, Al Baker said this week.
“We will continually invest for the next generation to continue to reduce our carbon emissions, our emissions from our engines.”
The A380, with its significant carbon footprint, does not fit into this Qatar Airways strategy. According to Akbar Al Baker, the A380 is not sustainable from an economic and environmental point of view. While these last five A380s are still on hold at Qatar Airways, it seems inevitable that the CEO of the airline will retire them for good soon.