LONDON, UK — New dawn for the A380: British startup Global Airlines eyes Transatlantic dominance with the iconic double-decker superjumbo.

The Airbus A380, a leviathan of the skies once threatened by extinction due to the global pandemic, is experiencing a renaissance. The commercial aviation sector is witnessing the re-emergence of the behemoth aircraft, as more and more of these superjumbos take wing once again, ushering in a new era for the A380.
In the midst of this aviation resurgence, a nascent British airline, Global Airlines, is basing its entire business model around the A380. Slated to commence transatlantic operations next year, the startup has procured a 16-year-old A380, setting the stage for what will become an all-A380 fleet. A bold move in the secondary aircraft market, the airline is refurbishing the jet to its own specifications.

Despite its popularity among passengers, the A380 has been a financial thorn in the side for most airlines, largely due to its high operating and maintenance costs coupled with its enormous size. James Asquith, CEO of Global Airlines, however, offers a different perspective. “The A380 can be a fantastic aircraft when deployed on appropriate routes and utilized in an optimal manner," he states. Asquith intends to invest heavily in the revamp of their inaugural A380 and future additions.

With his past experience as the founder of Holiday Swap, a home-swapping travel platform under the umbrella of Global's parent company, and as the youngest person to travel to every country (a feat acknowledged by the Guinness world record), Asquith brings a unique blend of perspectives to the table. “I’ve experienced approximately 280 different airlines, gaining insights into what works, what fails, and what could be enhanced,” he remarks.

When queried on the choice of this specific A380, Asquith emphasizes the importance of not just the cabin or interiors, but also the maintenance aspects, the condition of the landing gear, and, crucially, the state of the engines.

While the financial details of the acquisition remain confidential, it’s confirmed to be in the "eight-figure" range. Rob Morris, head of consultancy at aviation analytics firm Cirium, states that the value of such an aircraft can range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on its maintenance condition. Even after the acquisition, Global will need to further invest in the refurbishment of the jet, potentially pushing the final cost into the $50 million vicinity. Despite these costs, it remains a steal compared to the $450 million list price for a brand-new A380 in 2018.

Starting an airline, particularly one centered on an A380 fleet, is an endeavor fraught with challenges, as evidenced by the aircraft’s less than stellar economic performance for many previous operators. However, Asquith is undeterred, citing Emirates' successful use of the A380. He emphasizes that the true value of the A380 is not simply in the number of seats it can accommodate, but rather in the quality of service it can deliver.

Global Airlines, however, does not intend to imitate Emirates' business model in its entirety. It plans to forego the premium economy class, instead concentrating on providing a three-tier cabin service with regular economy, business, and first class. Asquith, who still sees himself as a passenger first and foremost, states, "I want a better product across the Atlantic, and that's why we're doing what we're doing.”

The airline's initial plans for a "gamer class" equipped with gaming consoles have been shelved. Instead, the focus will be on enhancing the economy class experience, which, in Asquith's view, hasn't seen sufficient evolution in the past few decades.