This firm wants to lease its A380s to Google and Airbnb

Key Points
  • Amedeo owns 12 A380 aircraft which are leased to airlines
  • The firm is looking for a "plan B" as airlines question the superjumbo's value
  • It believes companies like Google and Airbnb may wish to lease seats on a plane.
Marwan Naamani | AFP | Getty Images

An Irish aircraft-leasing company has said it could soon lease out its A380 planes to firms such as Google, Expedia and Airbnb.

Dublin-based Amadeo holds 12 A380 aircraft on its books and is looking at plans to provide its own pilots and cabin services to run flights on behalf of a mix of private firms.

Mark Lapidus, Amedeo chief executive, said Thursday that his ambition is to gather a small network of three or four airlines that would buy seats on one of his company’s planes. He added that further participating companies wouldn’t necessarily need to be from the aviation industry.

“There has seen to be interest from gig economy style firms like Airbnb, Expedia and even Google,” he said. “In the case of Airbnb, there is an obvious interest in not only where you are staying but also how you get there.”

Lapidus said the model was appealing to those companies that were unlikely to take on the challenge of setting up and running a full airline.

The Amedeo model could start in 2023 when planes are due to be returned to the lessor. The firm said it could commit companies to purchasing a number of business or economy seats on each plane. It claimed a contract length of up to two or three years would offer participants much greater flexibility than the current situation where whole planes are leased for around a decade.

An employee works on an Airbus A380 plane inside the Air France KLM maintenance hangar at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, France, May 31, 2016.
Philippe Wojazer | Reuters

Lapidus said passenger experience would not be an issue as travelers were already used to the concept of code-sharing. He added that the service offered between airlines had been “commoditized” to the extent that flyers expectations were well understood and could be met by his firm.

“Take business class. It is direct aisle access, a lie-flat bed, good IFE (in-flight entertainment) and some personal space. Catering is outsourced so that’s no problem,” he said.

Lapidus estimated that A380 aircraft were only being used for around 12 hours a day, but if a plane was not restricted to one airline’s route it could be flown for up to 18 hours per day.

He said one current challenge would be to break through the network boundaries created by bilateral agreements between the jurisdictions of Asia, Europe and the United States.

“If we have an aircraft that is flying Hong Kong to London then onto New York, then we have barriers to overcome,” Lapidus said.

Visitors look at models of an Airbus A380 and an Airbus A350 plane at the Beijing International Aviation Expo in Beijing on September 19, 2017.
Wang Zhao | AFP | Getty Images

The future of the A380

The A380 first entered service in 2007 and was seen as the future of aviation with its low-cost per-seat economics.

But few airlines have managed to fill the superjumbo on a constant basis and the advent of smaller planes with extended ranges are appealing to carriers.

One airline that has continuously backed the A380 is Emirates, which took delivery of its 100th A380 earlier this year.

A deal for the Gulf airline to buy more superjumbos was expected to be finalized at the Dubai Airshow earlier this month. However, it never materialized as concerns about Airbus’ commitment to the program surfaced.

Lapidus said he believed that the deal will go through as the Emirates business model was based on the Airbus superjumbo.

"Emirates runs seven A380 flights to the U.K. every day. Five of them into Heathrow. They are completely full so it is difficult to see how they would replace them (for other airplane styles)."