Qatar Airways will not be bringing its A380 aircraft back into service in the near future, stating that “it is not commercially or environmentally justifiable to operate such a large aircraft in the current market”.

Rival Gulf carrier Emirates has resumed selected flights using its (admittedly much larger) A380 fleet, but Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said that the airline would not follow suit “until demand returns to appropriate levels”.

The carrier is now utilising its full fleet of 30 B787 and 49 A350 long-haul aircraft, as it continues to rebuild its network following the Covid-19 pandemic, and it said that “benchmark figures identified that Qatar Airways’ fleet of A350 aircraft consumed 20 tonnes of CO2 less per block hour on certain routes compared to the A380”.

The news will raise questions as to whether Qatar Airways’ ten superjumbos will return to service, with passenger demand set to take several years to return to 2019 levels. Last year Flight Global reported that the carrier would begin retiring its A380s from 2024.

Several carriers have already taken the decision to remove the superjumbo from their fleets, either temporarily or permanently. Air France is retiring its entire A380 fleet, while Lufthansa has said that it does not expect to operate the aircraft for two years.

Commenting on the news Al Baker said:

“Qatar Airways Group has a strong record of industry leadership on sustainable operations. We take our responsibilities to care for the environment seriously and sustainability is at the forefront of our business planning across the group, this is why we have an average fleet age of less than five years, one of the youngest in the world.

“Thanks to our strategic and diversified investment in our fleet, the viability of our operations has not been dependent on any specific aircraft type. This has enabled us to be one of the few global airlines to never stop operating during this crisis, carrying over two million passengers and in the process becoming the largest international airline in the world. Our fleet mix has enabled us to continue operating routes throughout this crisis ensuring we do not leave passengers stranded.

“As we rebuild our network, passengers can rely on us to operate an honest schedule of flights to take them where they want to go, using the right size aircraft to offer sensible capacity on each route. As a result, we will not resume flying our fleet of A380 until demand returns to appropriate levels.

“Having closely studied the environmental impact numbers, flying such a large aircraft with a low load factor does not meet our environmental responsibilities or make commercial sense. Our young fleet of Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft are a much better fit for current global demand.”