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Air France hasn’t shown its A380s much love for quite some time but it was still a big surprise to most when the airline took time out yesterday to announce that it was retiring all of its A380 aircraft with immediate effect.
I first heard the news that Air France was retiring its A380s through Jason Rabinowitz (@airlineflyer) and I immediately assumed that the airline had simply announced an accelerated schedule for the retirements as the aircraft were already scheduled to be phased out by 2022. But that wasn’t the case, and the statement issued by the airline was very clear when it called the move a “definitive end of Air France Airbus A380 operations”.
Some people are saddened by this news, but I have to confess to being more than a little pleased that we’re seeing the back of the Air France A380, and my reasons are purely selfish.
I’m not an AvGeek (although I can still enjoy an amazing aircraft) so I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever had a special love for the A380 as an aircraft type and, when it comes to the Air France A380, this is an aircraft that has been a thorn in my side for some time.
There are two things you need to know at this point:
- Before Covid-19 closed down the world, Air France operated the A380 on its route between Paris and Los Angeles (one of my home airports) alongside its 777s.
- Air France offers a fantastic Business Class product on a number of its aircraft but the A380 isn’t one of them. The Business Class cabin on the Air France A380 is a throwback to the early part of this century where all-aisle-access seating was just a dream. The cabin may not be anywhere near as bad as the cabins on Emirates’ 777s but it’s also nowhere near as good as the cabin on the Air France 777s (for example).
Over the past few years, I’ve found countless excellent Business Class fares for travel through or from Paris to Los Angeles on dates that worked for me but, on almost every occasion, the good fare has only been available for travel on the Air France A380 and not on the vastly superior Air France 777. With fares on oneworld airlines for the same dates often pricing within $150 – $200 of the Air France fare, I’ve always had the same dilemma:
- Do I book the Air France A380 knowing that although the service is almost certainly going to be good and although I’ll be saving some cash, I’ll be booked into a mediocre cabin and I’ll be earning miles and elite credits in an alliance I don’t much care for? Or…
- Do I book myself on an American Airlines 777 knowing that although the Business Class cabin will be vastly superior to the on in the Air France A380, and although I’ll be earning a lot of valuable credits towards oneworld status, I’ll be paying more and I’ll have, at best, a 50:50 chance of getting semi-acceptable levels of service?
I’ve almost always chosen to pay a little more and to fly with American even though my heart wanted me to fly with Air France. When it comes right down to it, I can put up with poor service levels if it’s in exchange for an excellent seat and a bucketload of elite status credits that I care about…but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I really do.
I really enjoyed my last Air France 777 flight, but that was almost 3 years ago and since then I (mostly) haven’t been able to find the holy trinity: A good Air France Business Class fare, on dates I can travel and on flights that don’t involve the airline’s A380.
Going forward this isn’t going to be an issue (hallelujah!). With all the Air France A380 safely grounded for eternity, any great Air France fares I find for travel back home to LA will almost certainly be on aircraft offering a fantastic cabin with service levels to match. I’ll never have to click on the details of an Air France fare again while praying to the aviation gods that the information the new page offers doesn’t throw up the A380.
I’ll happily forgo oneworld elite credits if it means I get to fly in the Business Class cabin on an Air France 777/A350/787 🙂
As it happens, the news that Air France is retiring its A380 isn’t just good news for any potential bookings I may make – it’s also very good news for an existing booking I have.
A few weeks ago I noticed a truly mind-blowing Business Class fare for travel between Budapest and Los Angeles for early next year and, yes, you’ve probably guessed it, the fare was for travel via Paris and the flights between Paris and LA were both operated by an Air France A380. Booking a 777 wasn’t an option as the fare trebled as soon as I tried to take the A380 out of the equation.
Had this just been a “good” fare I would have passed and I may even have passed had it been a “very good” fare but, at $825.42 for fully refundable Business Class travel there was no way I was passing up this opportunity…so I booked it.
As things stand, my booking is still showing the A380 operating the two transatlantic flights (hardly surprising as the A380 retirements were only announced yesterday) but at some point, those will have to be changed and I have high hopes that Air France will choose to replace the A380 with a second 777. The aviation gods finally smiled down upon me! 🙂
Some will mourn the passing of the Air France A380 and some won’t care. I, on the other hand, am delighted to see the back of the beast and can’t wait to get searching for excellent fares across the Atlantic without having to “worry” about avoiding what aircraft Air France might be using.