Here’s Why A Used Airbus A380 Is Worth Zero (And The Value Of The Airframe May Even Be Negative)

Air France and Lufthansa are retiring their Airbus A380s. Singapore Airlines is re-evaluating its fleet. Emirates is de-commissioning the first A380s it received 12 years ago.

The A380 was on the way out before the pandemic. Emirates had soured on a plan to buy more, and the plane’s manufacturer decided to end production. The first A380 delivered, to Singapore Airlines on October 15, 2007, has been sent to the scrapyard rather than finding new life.

By Kentaro Iemoto from Tokyo, Japan, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Now that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, with demand for air travel down markedly and expecting a future that has less passengers for several years, the value of a used A380 may be literally zero.

Because of its size and fuel burn it’s expensive to operate unless it’s full, and full all the time. The A380 was envisioned as a plane that collects passengers at one congested hub and carries them to another. Slot controlled airports like London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita were where the plane was supposed to thrive. Emirates operated about half the planes ever delivered, flying people through its mega-hub at Dubai. However technological advances drove down cost of moving people non-stop and bypassing the hubs.

  • According to The Economist, the oldest planes, now 12-13 years old, are normally expected to have depreciated 50% and so.

  • The a list price of $445 million, and airlines usually paying about half of list you’d expect a new plane to price around $222.5 million, and to depreciate to $111.25 million after twelve years.

  • Prior to Covid-19 A380s were being appraised “between $75m and $100m.”

  • Not only aren’t there passengers and buyers now, and less of a purpose for the plane than when initially conceived, but there really aren’t congested airports to solve for either.

  • One consultant pegs the value as being half what it was six months ago. That matches what one fund owning planes leased to Emirates has written the planes down to.

  • However the market price for A380-owning funds imply “the residual values of the planes once the leases expire are between $10m and $15m”

  • And since each of the plane’s four engines might worth $6 million in good repair, and that the landing gear probably has value, an A380 airframe must be worth $0 – indeed the airframe itself may have negative value on a standalone basis.

Air France never had a large enough fleet of A380s to achieve decent economics with the plane, even if they had the demand to fill it. It makes sense to retire the fleet, since they weren’t going to grow it. The lack of a secondary market, though, would seemingly help to ensure that Emirates continues to fly it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It does make me wish there was a stable cargo conversion for these giants, especially one just came off the assembly line last week. If there was one, they could join the long list of planes that make no sense flaying passengers but are great for cargo.

  2. Someone will make an airframe into a house. It already has two showers… just need the room on a loathe lot with amenities


  4. From 2009 until COVID-19, very high load factors were needed to be profitable flying overseas or coast-to- coast. Fuel cost was not a real big factor, more use of it included carrying freight and baggage, so on a cost basis 5% more fuel for 5% more liftoff weight fuel was covered. On a revenue basis, though, a 250 pound traveler with bags paid $1,000s more than 250 pounds of frieght.

    It is still likely that big long-range aircraft will be used. Long trips more often are round trip and scheduled weeks ahead. An airline flying overseas on a route 12 times a week can drop one flight and fill the other 11 by offering upgrades.

  5. @Stefan Treff– Yeah, I knew it was stupid at the time. For months after they completed the new south runways there was only one A380 flight per week.

    China could buy ’em cheap for troop carriers.

  6. Even if they did covert it to a cargo planes no one would buy it. Aircraft with 4 engines are becoming a thing of the past. FedEx got rid of it’s 747F year’s ago that it acquired from Flying Tiger for the reason of operating costs..Even UPS is not replacing it’s 747F with another one. With the new developments of more powerful fuel efficient jet engines today why would you buy an aircraft with 4 engines if you can do the same with using only 2 of them at half the fuel cost.

  7. I think these would make nice mobile ICUs.

    Sounds expensive until you consider how expensive the whole ICU experience is and then maybe it isn’t.

    At some ballpark like 10-15k/day ownership that’s one “first day” of ICU care for one patient.

    The military (very) occasionally flies patients halfway around the world on in flight refueled C-17s at ~25k/hr. They are routinely used for “shorter” trips e.g. Middle East – Europe and can be configured for ICU patients in less than an hour I think?

    Idk how many ICU beds you could put in an A380, plus bunking, galley, lounge, etc, for staff, but “a lot.” Then, what to do with the cargo hold. Cargo? Partially convert it?

    Maybe in this new world of ours it makes some economic sense.

  8. A good cargo conversion for the plane would require significant re-engineering. The second floor could only support large but not heavy cargo (cargo is much denser than people), and it would need to be reinforced (which itself adds significant weight) in order to achieve real cargo ability on the second deck. It’s just not a good fit — it’s a people hauler.

  9. The 747 was designed from the start to carry cargo, hence the hump, Airbus wasn’t that smart.

  10. A380;
    -could become a terrific charter craft.
    -extended range freighter with addef fuel capacity held in the current bag/cargo deck.
    -what’s the sense in moving troops in a piddly small C117 or other when an 80 can truck twice the number of boots.? (Maybe need more toilets?)
    -A80 hospital ship? All set-up with ICU and operating room plus recovery beds and live aboard quarters for medical and air-crew plus a couple of techs.
    Don’t prematurely throw these ships away!
    Just measure the various non passenger needs/markets as they existed before covid.
    Retro fit engines made one day make these air-frames an economic dream!

  11. US military should get at least 6 to transport large number of troops. Thus, stop paying commercial rate getting troops moved around.
    In my time, it was always military transport. Not the most comfortable but we got to our duty station.

  12. Another issue with these giant birds is the cost of maintenance. After 12 years, these A380s require a major maintenance visit, lasting in excess of 3 months and costing millions. And then even after that they are only expected to fly for another 5 years or so before being totally retired. I was blessed to have participated in a few of those 12 year checks for a certain airline. It was always heartwarming to watch the take off when all was complete. Sad to see so many of these magnificent aircraft now head to the boneyard

  13. For reference, UPS have a sizable fleet of 747-400’s in service and are also still having 747-8F’s delivered at this moment in time? The 747-8’s aren’t replacing the 400’s as far as i am aware, they are an addition to UPS’s fleet, and so far they are up to N621UP with more to come? These 800’s may well be the last 747’s to come off the Boeing production line, the end of an icon!

  14. When the A380 was on the drawing board (to compete with the 747) Boeing was smart enough to 1/ not redesigning the 747 as full 2 decks (it was once an option), 2/ pursued and produced the 787 , then 777X .
    Boeing mistake was the way it developed and sold the MAX.

  15. I would like a hull to build a house out of but the logistics of moving a hull is basically impossible

  16. The A380 is a great aircraft with an amazing customer experience level. On itself it’s just time after time an amazing piece of air-art!

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