Will Covid-19 Mark The End of The Jumbo Era?

This is quite a tough time for all airlines around the world. We don’t really know what the aviation industry is going to look like once we get out of this crisis. Some carriers such as Flybe or Air Italy have already folded to the conditions surrounding the industry at this time. Unfortunately others may follow, only time will tell what will happen.

British Airways 747-400
British Airways 747-400

However this crisis might cause other changes to the way we travel around the globe. We might find ourselves flying in different aircraft types. More precicely we might see some aircraft types use and popularity go downhill as an effect of Covid-19. In particular I’m referring to the Jumbos, that means the 747s and the A380s out there.

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Why 747s and A380s Are at Risk?

The 747 and the A380 are the biggest airliners that soar the skies in modern aviation. They transport the biggest amount of passengers in a single go, but they also have some very big disadvantages that had already started weighing them down well before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Lufthansa A380 at Gate
Lufthansa A380 at Gate

These airliners, although recent technology advancements improved this, are still fuel thirsty aircrafts when compared to the super fuel efficient A350s and 787s. Slowly over the past decade many airlines have been concentrating their investments on buying smaller more fuel efficient planes, rather than these giants of the skies.

This is because it is become harder and harder to make it profitable to run fleets with a high presence of 747s or A380s. To be profitable while running a 747 or A380 heavy fleet you need to factors to come together.

  1. High demand for routes by passengers.
  2. Low Fuel Cost

Right now during the Covid-19 crisis one of these two factors is met. Fuel costs have dropped, but so has passenger demand for transport. Also there are another two problems.

KLM Boeing 747-400
KLM Boeing 747-400

Just as easily as it dropped, fuel cost can bounce back very quickly. Simply because the fuel cost drop was coused mainly by the slow down of production worldwide. As soon as the production ramps up again, it’s very likely oil costs will start heading north again.

It might take longer though to get back to the passenger figures we were seeing before the beginning of the crisis. This might be the main reason why this crisis might mark the end of the Jumbo era.

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Is It The End of The Jumbo Era?

If passenger demand figures don’t bounce back very quickly, airlines that have A380s and 747s in their fleets might have to very rapidly shift to a heavier use of smaller more fuel efficient planes. Aircraft such as the 787 and the A350 are easier to fill, which means they will constantly have a higher load factor, while having significantly lower operating costs.

Emirates Airlines A380 Seen From Below
Emirates Airlines A380 Seen From Below

It is very likely that airlines that have now grounded most of their fleets will put back into service their Jumbos last, if they decide to reinstate their use. This situation could cause problems to airlines that rely heavily on these huge airliners. The first airline that comes to mind is Emirates. The middle easter carriers is the largest A380 user worldwide. Will this cause problems for Emirates? We don’t know for certain as of now. Only once the crisis calms down we’ll be able to understand if they have the financial means to wait out the low demand period.

If things don’t get better quickly we might see them change their business model. Emirates might have to align with the other airlines and start relying more on fuel efficient smaller aircraft. This might mean early retirement for some of the A380. This obviously doesn’t go only for Emirates but for all airlines around the world. What will happen? Only time will tell.

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