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Emirates brings back A380 super jumbo jet, more routes

Emirates has brought back this behemoth, the Airbus A380, from storage and is flying it to a handful of cities. (Photo: Emirates)

Emirates is pumping up its passenger schedule and bringing back the gigantic Airbus A380 double-decker even as most airlines are being very judicious in restarting international service during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Dubai-based airline has added a significant number of destinations in recent weeks and said Thursday it is optimistic that it will be able to operate to 100% of its network, or more than 140 cities, by next summer.

Emirates also is gradually returning its super jumbo jet, the A380, to service on routes with high demand. The giant plane has resumed operations to five destinations so far, including London Heathrow; Paris; Cairo; Guangzhou, China; and Toronto. It recently added a second daily service to London.

The extra flights offer more cargo opportunities for shippers, especially if planes are not full of passengers. But the A380 has never been considered a great cargo hauler because so much space is devoted to passengers. Fully loaded, it holds 20% to 60% less cargo than other widebody jets, according to Emirates SkyCargo’s website.

Last month, Emirates operated a special A380 flight to Luzon in the Philippines carrying 405 overseas Filipino workers back home. It was the first commercial flight with an A380 to Clark International Airport.

Emirates said it has seen huge demand for its six weekly flights from Dubai to Clark, using other types of aircraft, as well as daily flights to Manila since it resumed passenger operations earlier in August. Emirates also recently resumed service to Cebu. 

On Friday, the airline resumes service to Lusaka, Zambia. On Sunday, the airline will resume service to Accra, Ghana, and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, bringing the passenger network up to 11 points in Africa and 81 worldwide.

Most airlines are taking a gradual approach toward reactivating international routes. They are mostly increasing capacity in domestic and short-haul regional markets in recognition that customers are interested in staying close to home and not getting stuck overseas by new border closures during the pandemic. 

Emirates is different in that its entire network is international, with its hub in the tiny city-state of Dubai functioning as a transfer point between East and West. 

Many airlines have mothballed the A380 or permanently retired it since the pandemic spread in March because it is too expensive to operate without high load factors. Air France-KLM removed the A380 from its fleet in favor of more fuel-efficient and environmentally cleaner planes.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]