Paris - Benjamin Smith, the new boss of Air France, said that the number of Airbus A380s in the fleet would be decreased from ten to five devices. The airline plans to return five leased Airbus A380 to their owners.
The contract terms of five superjumbos expire at the end of 2019. The French flag carrier will retain only the five A380 in its full ownership.
Smith justified the carrier's decision with the high operating cost of the aircraft. Airline's Boeing 777-300ER fleet is still the backbone of its long-haul routes. The Airbus A380 consumes much more kerosene than the 777-300ER on the same routes.
Another reason is the repeated incidents, which ended up tarnishing the reputation of the airline among regular customers. The most significant one was the Air France Flight 66 that suffered from an uncontained engine failure and made an emergency landing at Goose Bay Airport, Canada while it was on its way to Los Angeles International Airport.
Air France's A380s have the highest rate of negative customer returns from business travelers. They are the only long-haul aircraft in Air France's fleet not to have benefited from the new cabins that are already present on the 777, 787 and A330. The ten aircraft retain the former business cabins launched in 2010 that no longer meet the current standards of a long-haul business class.
From 2020, the retained five superjumbos will be equipped with new cabins. The renovation will cost to the company 45 million Euros (nearly 51 million USD) per aircraft.
The Airbus's superjumbo has been in production for more ten years but the sales are below expectations. The airlines prefer today to acquire twin-engine widebodies that are more flexible to operate and less expensive to maintain.
As a result, the order book of the A380 is almost empty if the recent order from Emirates for 20 devices, which saved the Airbus's A380 program for now, is not taken into account.