It’s not the type of auction you see every day.
Back in August, Thai Airways announced it would put its fleet of the world’s largest commercial airplanes up for sale.
The invitation called for qualified buyers to offer bids for any of its six Airbus A380 aircraft — the massive four-engine, double-decker jet that can carry more than 500 passengers.
None of the planes are particularly old. They couldn’t possibly be: The A380 has been in the air for less than two decades.
Nonetheless, Thai Airways hasn’t flown its A380s since the pandemic, and a subsequent plan last year to get them back in the air didn’t materialize.
The auction seemingly marks the end of Thai’s run with the aircraft, with bidding reportedly starting at an initial deposit of just $50,000 per plane — which once had a list price of roughly $450 million.
But Thai Airways is hardly alone in viewing the A380 as more a part of its past than future — even as the jet still garners the affection of the 300 million passengers who have flown on it since Singapore Airlines took delivery of the first A380 some 16 years ago.
“It was a popular airplane when it was introduced back in 2007 and remains a popular airplane with passengers today,” said Shea Oakley, a commercial aviation historian based in New York.
“The bigger issue,” Oakley explained “Is has it been good for the airlines? And it’s more of a mixed bag there.”
The numbers speak for themselves.
Airbus delivered a total of 251 A380s over roughly 14 years. Today, just 154 remain in service, according to airline data analysis firm Cirium. Nearly 80 A380s are currently in “storage,’ meaning they haven’t moved in the past 30 days. The rest have been retired.
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