Qatar Airways grounds half its Airbus A380 fleet permanently

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 superjumbos will not fly again "for the foreseeable future", according to the airline's chief executive, with at least half permanently grounded.

Speaking at an aviation forum, Akbar Al Baker said the world's largest passenger aircraft had been surpassed by more efficient alternatives such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The Qatar CEO said that the airline had never expected those aircraft to be as efficient as they have proven to be. "The 380, I think, is one of the worst aircraft, when it comes to emissions, that is flying today," he said.

"This is why we have decided that we will not operate them for the foreseeable future. And even when we operate them, we will only operate half of the numbers we have. So if you are very interested to purchase some for yourself, I will sell it to you," he joked.

Qatar Airways has 10 A380s in its fleet, having received its first superjumbo in 2014. The aircraft has fallen out of favour in recent years, with Airbus announcing it would stop manufacturing the giant plane this year.

The retirement of A380s has been accelerated by the global downturn in air travel due to the pandemic, with few airlines continuing to fly the planes designed to carry more than 500 passengers. Qantas's superjumbos have been moved to long-term storage in California's Mojave Desert, while Singapore Airlines has stored some of its A380s near Alice Springs.

Emirates will receive the last few A380s produced, with three new aircraft delivered to the airline last month.

Qatar Airways has continued to fly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as other airlines grounded their fleets, effectively becoming the world's largest international carrier. It has been one of the few carriers that has continued to fly into Australia, going so far as to launch a new route (Doha to Brisbane) last year. The airline also carried tennis players to Melbourne for the Australian Open on special charter flights.

In response to Emirates suspending flights to Australia in the wake of reduced government caps on incoming passengers, Qatar took a dig at its rival, tweeting on its official account: "Qatar Airways operates 23 weekly flights to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney maintaining our long-term commitment to support Australian passengers and exporters with global connectivity during both good and bad times."

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Mr Al Baker said he realistically did not expect air travel levels to fully recover until 2024, assuming the virus is controlled. But he did not believe fares would become too expensive due to a reduction in services.

"I disagree that airlines will start charging people an arm and a leg just because there is reduced capacity or the airline industry has shrunk," he said. "In the short and medium term, yes, there will be a reduction in the number of airplanes and the network, but also keep in mind that less people will want to travel in that period."

See also: Emirates premium economy unveiled on new superjumbo

See also: 'COVID-19 has terminated my career': Hero of A380 flight QF32 grounded

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