Sunday, December 10

The “superjumbos” are back: why the skies are filling with gigantic planes again

“Nothing will ever be the same”. It was one of the mantras we heard during the hardest months of the covid-19 pandemic and the first months post-confinement. Also that “we will come out of this better”, which already sounds so far away. And the truth is that some things have changed, but not so much in mobility.

If our cities were filled with bicycles and tactical urbanism that, in some cities, has progressively disappeared, our skies are just as collapsed as before the pandemic. This was expected to reduce travel, especially long-distance and work, but months later we find ourselves in the same situation as before 2020.

people want to travel. And he doesn’t care if it’s for work or tourism. In fact, flights for work reasons have multiplied again and are already reaching the levels of two years ago. Video calls and long-distance meetings have not been able to handle something as human as traveling, meeting new places and people, and strengthening ties with face-to-face relationships.

The giants of the skies return

Although in recent years the Fligskam (ashamed to fly) has become popular and many European countries are rescuing the train as a priority means of transport to reduce polluting emissions into the atmosphere, the truth is that the new outbreak of tourism in 2022 has rescued aircraft that seemed doomed to extinction: the extraordinarily large planes.

Abandoned for months and with their future in doubt, planes like the Airbus A380, with the capacity to transport more than 600 people, seemed doomed to extinction. So condemned that, in fact, in December 2021, Airbus announced that it was delivering the last unit it would manufacture of this model. Very soon the same will happen to the Boeing 747.

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According to Bloomberg, flights with superjumbos already represent 60% of the trips they made before the coronavirus pandemic. British Airways, for example, already carries out more transfers of this type than before 2020. And airlines such as Qantas (an Australian company), reinforce a position in which they were already well placed, with large flights for their long routes between the United Kingdom and New York to Australia. In fact, they plan to have half their fleet operational by the end of this year and put another 10 refurbished large aircraft to work by 2024.

One of the reasons why these giants were in clear retreat was due to their high fuel consumption. The airlines preferred to move a greater number of smaller planes than these aerial behemoths, as it meant lower fuel consumption. Now, however, the use of these planes can compensate for the hiring of new employees, previously reduced with the arrival of the pandemic.

In addition, this type of flight has always opted for luxury as an added value, an attraction that is being reborn in the skies. For example, the Airlander 10 that will cross the Spanish skies. In this case, the largest aircraft in the world also adds a commitment to greater respect for the environment.

In this context, Bloomberg points out that this month there will be up to 4,000 flights with Airbus A380 and that in January 2023 there are already scheduled 6,000 journeys in which this aircraft is used. Media related to the aviation sector point out that companies like Luthansa would be interested in reactivating their production.

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After the collapse of tourism, Airbnb bet on teleworkers.  It turned out great

Other voices point out that this sudden revival of the superjumbos is only a temporary matter and that it will not go back. The high costs of fuel, now at record levels, may end up killing a means of transport that was already going through its lowest hours before 2020.

Anne Rigail, French director of Air France-KLM, recently stated that “the costs were so high that we were interested in changing to new generation aircraft that are more fuel efficient. The A380s were placed on the most important routes, but they were quite complicated to fill”, in relation to the retirement of its Airbus A380 two years before the scheduled time.

Photo | simon infanger

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