Following Airbus announcing production of its A380 superjumbo will cease by 2021 and the aircraft being offloaded by some of its airline customers, aviation consultancy IBA Group sees a difficult secondary market for the aircraft and its engines.
Despite the aircraft only being in-service for little more than a decade, the market has since shifted towards narrowbody aircraft types, according to David Archer, senior engine analyst at IBA. He says quad engine aircraft like the A380, which has the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 and Engine Alliance GP7200 as engine options, are no longer the way forward due to high operating costs.
“Firstly, these engines are not applicable to any other aircraft family, they are unique to the A380 infrastructure,” Archer says. “They cannot be swapped because of the prohibitive costs and they have minimal to no parts commonality with any other engine family.”
IBA says that the key trend to keep an eye out for is what will happen when the leases end on the A380, with indications so far being that airlines would look to offload some of their superjumbos. Singapore Airlines began sending some of its A380s for teardown after the leases expired with Germany-based Dr. Peters last year. Lufthansa has since stated it intends to offload six of its fourteen A380 fleet back to Airbus, with Malaysia Airlines expected to follow suit. Air France meanwhile is set to return five A380s to the lessor in late 2020 upon the lease expiration.
Despite this, IBA sees some optimism in the latter carrier’s plans for its remaining A380 of five aircraft. The consultancy says Air France plans to spend around €45 million ($50.5 million) on retrofit work. It also believes Lufthansa’s sale of the aircraft to Airbus shows the OEM’s continued support for a secondary market, while Portugal’s Hi-Fly taking one A380 on wet-lease will boost short-term capacity. There is also speculation that British Airways is considering adding to its A380 fleet with second-hand models to remedy congestion issues at its London Heathrow home base.
The engine and components market however will remain particularly tough and Archer says IBA’s view looking forward is one of conservatism. “There is some potential for an aftermarket for engines. But every aircraft represents four engines in a relatively small and niche fleet, so options are limited,” he says. Archer adds: “Rolls-Royce leasing Singapore Airlines’ engines will not be an option for all.”