An unexpected twist in the second half of 2021, middle-eastern carrier Qatar Airways announced that it would be reactivating part of its Airbus A380 fleet. The airline deemed this necessary as a way to meet passenger demand and provide sufficient capacity in the face of some 20 Airbus A350s being grounded due to an ongoing saga over cracking paint. But for those hoping to fly the superjumbo with this particular airline, where might it be found?

Qatar Airways’ CEO was adamant that the A380 was an expensive mistake. At the same time, the jet is providing capacity in the face of issues with other jets in the fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Throughout much of 2021, we were led to believe that Qatar Airways’ A380 fleet would be gone for good. The airline’s CEO was quite vocal about the type’s inefficiency as a result of elevated operating costs and increased carbon emissions.

After noting that the airline would be taking an impairment on all 10 of its A380s at the end of September, there was a significant surprise change of course as it announced the superjumbo would be returning to provide capacity.

tale of two cities

At the moment, Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 route network is extremely simple, operating two major routes as of December 15th:

Doha-London Heathrow (twice daily)Outbound: QR 0003 and QR 0009Inbound: QR 0004 and QR 0006Doha-Paris Charles de Gaulle (once daily)Outbound: QR 0039Inbound: QR 0040

It should be noted that other aircraft from the Qatar Airways fleet are also flying these routes and include the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787. Should you be lucky enough to be traveling in the near future and are hoping to step aboard the A380, select your flight carefully!

Doha Qatar A380
The airline is deploying the A380s on just two routes at the moment. Photo:

reluctant return

At this time, just four of the airline’s 10 A380s are active in providing these services and are registered as follows:

A7-APG (MSN 193)A7-APH (MSN 197)A7-API (MSN 235)A7-APJ (MSN 254)

These are the four youngest A380s in the fleet, ranging between four and five and a half years of age.

It was made very clear that the decision to reactivate the A380s was made very reluctantly. The move was based on the airline’s ongoing issues with its Airbus A350s, some of which have seen paint cracking issues and surface degradation. This has led Qatar’s civil aviation regulator to ground over 20 of the twinjets (initially this was 13).

Clearly, after the airline’s CEO called the jet its biggest mistake, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker would have preferred to keep the jets grounded. At the same time, he must be a little relieved that they’re still available as they can be reactivated to meet the current level of travel demand. At least aviation enthusiasts and all those who enjoy the spaciousness of the A380 certainly aren’t complaining.

Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Boeing 777
Over 20 of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350s have now been grounded. Photo: Qatar Airways

Based on what we know, the A380’s continued deployment will largely depend on whether Airbus and Qatar Airways can find a satisfactory solution to the ongoing paint saga. However, in the unfortunate scenario where more A350s be grounded, the airline still has six A380s available for reactivation- in which case maybe more cities will see the quadjet.

Will you be flying on the A380 any time soon? And how long do you think this deployment will last? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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