Major Airlines Operating A380 “Ghost Flights”

Major Airlines Operating A380 "Ghost Flights"

The COVID-19 pandemic has grounded vast numbers of aircraft worldwide, most significantly – the A380. At a time when almost all of these aircraft are grounded, many have been surprised to see A380’s appearing in the skies of Asia and the Middle East.

Etihad Airways

In order to keep both their pilots and planes at an operational status, Etihad Airways has kept all their A380’s flying. Throughout June and July, all 10 of the Abu Dhabi-based airline’s A380’s have flown for at least 20-30 minutes.

RegistrationFlight TimeDateTakeoff TimeLanding Time
A6-APA0:2715th June10:45 local11:12
A6-APB0:2116th June11:4412:05
A6-APC0:2617th June11:5012:15
A6-APD0:2918th June11:3512:04
A6-APE0:2112th June15:4416:04
A6-APF0:3013th June16:2416:54
A6-APG0:1812th June17:5418:12
A6-APH0:396th July09:2210:00
A6-API0:2119th June11:2511:46
A6-APJ0:3114th June11:1111:42
Source: FlightRadar24 Data

Prior to these “Ghost Flights,” Etihad’s A380s (except A6-APH) had not flown since between 18th-25th March; coinciding with Etihad grounding all of their A380’s from regular service.

A6-APE operating flight EY9101 on 12th June

Asiana Airlines

Seoul-based Asiana Airlines has also been operating Airbus A380 “Ghost Flights”. In a similar fashion to Etihad, Asiana has taken 4/6 of their A380’s for 20-30 minute single circuits around Seoul Incheon Airport.

Additionally, HL7625 flew 26 flights around Incheon airport to ensure all A380 pilots had time at the controls. Like the other A380’s, Asiana have used this aircraft to complete single circuits between 6th-8th May.

Asiana A380 Ghost Flight
Example of a standard single circuit, completed by HL7634 in 21 minutes

Speaking to Bloomberg, an Asiana spokesperson said these flights were a necessity. The closest alternative for their Seoul-based A380 pilots is a trip to Thailand, where fellow Star Alliance member Thai Airways has a full-sized simulator. By the end of this program most of Asiana’s A380 pilots had flown the A380 at least once, but a further 135 pilots missed out.

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RegistrationFlight TimeDateTakeoff TimeLanding Time
HL7626
HL76340:2129th June9:14 local9:36
HL76350:3410th June11:4112:15
HL76400:3210th June09:4910:21
HL76410:228th June09:3109:53
Note: HL7625 has not been included, as it has completed numerous flights already outlined
Asiana Airlines Airbus A380

All pilots had their licenses extended by the Korean Office of Civil Aviation, regardless if they flew or not. The same privilege was also granted to ANA A380 pilots by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau.

Asiana A380 Ghost Flight
A longer training flight, completed by HL7640 in 32 minutes

“Ghost Flights”

As airlines eagerly anticipate the return to regular service, for some it is absolutely necessary to keep their A380’s actively operating. Whilst some major carriers, such as Qantas and Lufthansa, are mothballing their A380’s for years to come, others are keeping these aircraft fit to fly.

By operating these short flights, A380 pilots can maintain appropriate operational proficiency and not risk losing certification. From a maintenance point of view, flying the aircraft ensures that operational defects are detected and prevents wear-and-tear from storage.

Article Sources: Flightradar24 and Bloomberg

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Sarah Gracie

About the Author: Sarah Gracie

Sarahis a reporter covering Amazon. She previously covered tech and transportation, and she broke stories on Uber's finances, self-driving car program, and cultural crisis. Before that, she covered cybersecurity in finance. Sarah's work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Politico, and the Houston Chronicle.

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