Maldives saw the largest commercial aircraft in the world, the Airbus A380 land in Velana International Airport in 2018 after the government of Maldives chartered an Etihad Airways Airbus A380-800.
The flight piloted by the first Maldivian A380 pilot Mr.Ali Ahsan, operated from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives for the inaugural opening of the new code F runway.
The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger commercial airliner in the world with a seating capacity that can reach up to 800 passengers.
From the airlines that operate to the Maldives; Emirates, Qatar Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, etc all do have the A380 in their fleet.
Would we see the A380 operating scheduled flights to the Maldives when the new runway is fully operational?
The A380 project was initially started in the late 1980s as a direct competitor to the dominant Boeing 747 for the long haul passenger market. With multiple delays and higher than anticipated development costs, the A380 finally flew for the first time in 2005.
There’s a total of 246 A380s builds today with Emirates as their biggest customer with a total of 123 airbus A380s which accounts for almost half of the total number build.
However, unlike anticipated by Airbus the A380s didn’t last long in the airline market and Airbus has already announced they would stop production of the aircraft. The manufacturer initially expected they would get over 600 orders for the A380 however they did not get even get half of that amount.
Due to the size, the aircraft can only be operated to selected airports in the world. Its size and required gate infrastructure limited the aircraft use in many airports. With four engines, the operating costs and ground time required was much higher.
With the hourly operating cost of the A380’s, airlines can even operate two Boeing 787’s. As the airlines move away from the hub and spoke operations to point-to-point routes, smaller twin-engine aircraft like the Boeing 777s and the Airbus A350 proved to be more efficient and flexible.
A380s operational life is already hit hard early with the impact of COVID-19 in the aviation industry. Many airlines already began early retirement or long term storage of the aircraft.
Qatar Airways is retiring half of its A380 fleet; CEO Akbar Al Baker said - "The A380, I think, is one of the worst aircraft when it comes to emissions that are flying around today, 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."
Lufthansa has sent their A380’s for long-term storage, Etihad Airways has grounded their A380 fleet while Air France has already retired its entire A380 fleet.
With the peak season both Qatar Airways And
Emirates operated up to four flights per day to Velana International Airport. The most likely operator we may perhaps see to use the A380 to VIA could be Emirates however even Emirates is primarily focusing on growing Boeing 777 and the Airbus A350 fleet for the future. The airline would be phasing out the A380s later on.
We may perhaps see another chartered flight of the A380 to the Maldives but for the near future, it’s hard to say that we may see an airliner operate the superjumbo to the Maldives on a scheduled basis.