Earlier this year the A380 assembly line received a stay of execution thanks to a new Emirates order. Today the second-hand market for the type officially launched, with Portuguese charter carrier Hi Fly confirming plans to acquire and operate the type. The Hi Fly A380 is expected to be operational for the company by mid-year.
Hi Fly is taking delivery of its first Airbus A380, the world’s largest and most spacious airliner. The arrival is a major event for the Company, making it the 1st Portuguese and the 4th European airline operating the model. #Hifly #hiflyairline #a380 pic.twitter.com/JQpLUO8Sx4
— Hi Fly (@hifly_airline) April 5, 2018
The plane in question formerly operated for Singapore Airlines. FlightGlobal reports that the aircraft will keep the 471-seat layout that it carried in its previous life rather than reconfigure to a higher density, 560-seat, 2-class layout. Few of the company’s scheduled service charter customers offer first class seating but the cost of the retrofits presumably proved too high to justify for this first delivery.
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Even the 560-seat arrangement was seen as a positive for passengers in avoiding the super high-density configuration of 11-abreast seating on the main deck for the aircraft, part of the A380plus idea floated in 2017. Airbus continues to push that concept to carriers seeking the lowest per seat costs on the type. Presumably Hi Fly is realizing a sufficiently low price for the used frames that it can afford to not cram quite as many passengers on board.
Keeping the old Singapore Airlines interiors also means the aircraft will have Panasonic Avionics eX2 in-seat entertainment throughout the cabin. The aircraft also has SITAONAIR’s L-band inflight connectivity kit on board. Sourcing content for the IFE kit and delivering connectivity on the satellite connection are both expensive propositions so it is unclear what Hi Fly will deliver on those fronts, but the hardware is available on the aircraft. The seats also have power outlets available to passengers.
A significant portion of Hi Fly’s business comes from offering its aircraft to substitute when other carriers have maintenance needs or are otherwise short on aircraft. The company is operating a number of its aircraft currently on longer-term contracts for airlines affected by the 787 engine issues, for example. It also is the default substitute for Norwegian when one of its 787s is unavailable or sufficiently delayed to put the schedule at risk.
Hi Fly’s fleet is relatively small but it has a smart mix of aircraft, allowing it to offer quick access to right-sized planes for Norwegian, Finnair and others. The A380 with the presumably low lease rates could allow the company to retire some of its less fuel-efficient A340s if desired or if demand wanes.