Hi Fly bid farewell to its Airbus A380 today after just two and a half years of operations with the airline. Hi Fly is the only airline so far to operate the A380 on the secondary market, taking delivery of 9H-MIP (MSN 006) after its lease expired with Singapore Airlines in 2018. In June of 2020, Hi Fly converted the aircraft to carry only cargo, removing the seats in order to transport medical supplies in response to COVID-19. The wet lease specialist has said it will add A330s to its fleet to replace the A380.
Goodbye with love
As it said goodbye to its A380, Hi Fly drew a giant heart off the coast of Portugal before traveling to Toulouse.
HiFly takes a gamble
MSN 006 was delivered to Singapore Airlines in March of 2008 as 9V-SKC. In 2018 after its lease expiration, Singapore returned the aircraft to lessor in early July. Hi Fly took delivery of the aircraft and added a special ‘Save the Coral Reefs’ livery just in time for that year’s Farnborough Air Show, putting it on display.
Just a week after the air show, Norwegian leased 9H-MIP to mainly to operate its London (LGW) – New York (JFK) service. That operation was beset by delays due to the lack of available A380 gate space at JFK during the hours Norwegian’s flights were scheduled to operate. The carrier normally used a 787 on the LGW-JFK route and the addition of the A380 made for a logistical headache.
After a month flying for Norwegian, 9H-MIP spent the fall flying sporadically for Air Austral between Paris and Saint-Denis. In 2019 the aircraft operated for Air Senegal, Air Madagascar, Corsair, Norwegian again, and Estelar, as well as a handful of private charters.
In its two and a half years with Hi Fly 9H-MIP operated a total 268 flights. The aircraft’s best customer was Norwegian by far, with Hi Fly’s A380 operating 102 flights on their behalf.
In February of 2020, Hi Fly put the A380 into service operating evacuation flights from Wuhan, China to Europe. Then in May the airline began carrying medical supplies, operating one of its longest flights Tianjin-Santo Domingo in mid-May. In June, the airline announced that it had removed the seats from the aircraft to carry additional lightweight bulk cargo, like gowns, gloves, and face masks.
The first of these cargo flights took the aircraft to Montreal in late June. After sitting inactive through the summer, another few flights occurred in September and October. Then in November 2020, Hi Fly announced that it would remove the aircraft from its fleet at the expiration of the current lease due to market conditions caused by COVID-19. Its last operational flights were between Shanghai, Seoul and Hamburg.
Is there a future for the A380?
Will another airline be willing to take on the A380 in the secondary market or will we see a steady trickle of A380s coming off lease and flying to the desert for final storage? At the moment, the latter appears to unfortunately be the more likely scenario.