Firmly debunking speculation the end is nigh for the Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s, the airline is instead continuing to retrofit the planes with their latest seats. Singapore Airlines recently announced it was retiring seven of its Airbus A380s, leaving just 12 A380s remaining in the fleet, However, it appears Singapore Airlines is comfortable enough to keep investing in the remaining 12 A380s, boding well for their medium-term future.
Singapore Airlines to continue retrofitting all 12 remaining A380s
A report in Mainly Miles on the weekend said that the remaining 12 Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s would all be retrofitted with the 2017 cabin seats by the end of 2021.
That means all the A380s will have the newest first class suites product on the forward upper deck. There will be just six first class suites, and two of the suite pairs can be made into double beds. Nice.
Downstairs in the main cabin, economy class passengers will get to enjoy Recaro CL3710 seats and the latest IFE system with an 11.1-inch screen.
So far, eight of the Singapore Airlines’ A380s have undergone the retrofit. Singapore Airlines has confirmed to Mainly Miles that the ninth Airbus, 9V-SKM, is about to get retrofitted, and three more A380s will get done after that.
“We plan to retrofit an additional three more aircraft following 9V-SKM,” Singapore Airlines told Mainly Miles.
What A380s will stay, and what A380s will go?
As the report notes, identifying which three Airbus A380s will get retrofitted and which seven will be retired has become somewhat of a parlor game. But Mainly Miles has a big focus on Singapore Airlines, and they believed 9V-SKF to through to 9V-SKK will be pensioned off. They base this on them being the oldest A380s in the Singapore Airlines fleet. All six planes retain the original seats from around 11 or 12 years ago.
This makes them the most expensive to retrofit. Further, they would be the A380s mostly likely to be near to or fully written down.
According to IATA, typically, aircraft are depreciated over 15 to 25 years with residual values of between 0 to 20%. A lot of major airlines speed that timeframe up. Some are even prepared to accept a hit to their bottom line to write planes down overnight. Qantas did this mid-year with its fleet of A380s.
The A380s present a problem for Singapore Airlines
But Singapore Airlines faces a problem with its A380s. Demand is down, and all of them are grounded, retrofitted, or not. Singapore Airlines doesn’t expect to return the planes to service for at least another year. That’s in line with what other A380 operators are saying. That helped fuel the speculation around the future of the A380 at Singapore Airlines.
But Singapore Airlines’ problem is five of the retrofitted A380s are just three years old or younger. Besides having a substantial un-depreciated value remaining on the balance sheet, these planes have many useful flying hours left in them yet. To retire such young planes, and with no resale market for A380s, would be a shocking waste of money and resources.
Besides, when business was good until the start of 2020, Singapore Airlines had several long-haul routes the A380 worked nicely on. The dilemma for the airline is when those routes will start working nicely again. Until then, Singapore Airlines is taking a leap of faith and continuing to invest in the A380s. That strongly suggests we’ll see them around for a few more years yet.