First Emirates A380 superjumbos take off after grounding of fleet

Emirates superjumbos have returned to the skies for the first time since the airline grounded its Airbus A380 fleet in March.

Flight EK001 took off from Dubai International Airport for London Heathrow on Wednesday at 7.45am, closely followed by EK073 at 8.20am, bound for Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. EK073 received a special welcome in Paris, as the only A380 to operate at the airport since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Emirates grounded its entire fleet in late March, resuming some flights on April 6. However, only the airline's Boeing 777s returned to the skies, with the A380s, the world's largest passenger planes, remaining on the ground.

The airline resumed regular flights from Dubai to seven additional cities: Athens, Barcelona, Geneva, Glasgow, Larnaca, Munich and Rome. Flights to the Maldives, Washington DC and Brussels were also resuming this week.

The airline resumed flights to Australia on May 21.

Emirates is the largest operator of A380s, with 115 in its fleet. It has several more still on order from Airbus.

The huge passenger capacity of the A380 superjumbo has seen its usefulness to airlines reduced as passenger demand plummeted due to travel restrictions associated with COVID-19. As a result, many airlines have sent their A380s into long-term storage.

Qantas has sent its superjumbo fleet to the US for storage, with CEO Alan Joyce suggesting its A380s will not return to the skies for at least three years, assuming passenger demand recovers.

Other airlines have also grounded their A380s, including Singapore Airlines, which has sent four of the giant planes to a desert storage facility near Alice Springs.

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Meanwhile, Portuguese aircraft leasing company has stripped an A380 of its seats in order to convert it to carrying cargo.

The decline of the superjumbo, the largest passenger aircraft of all time, happened more quickly than Airbus had expected.

The plane launched to massive fanfare in 2007 with first customer Singapore Airlines. Its first commercial flight was from Singapore to Sydney on October 25 that year.

Although popular with passengers, the A380 quickly fell out of favour with airlines, as smaller and more fuel-efficient planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 became more cost-effective.

In 2019, Airbus announced it would cease production of the A380. The final aircraft are currently being assembled at the plane manufacturer's facility in Toulouse, France.

See also: World's largest passenger plane stripped of seats to make way for cargo

See also: Fuselage for the last A380 superjumbo squeezes through French village

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