Once dubbed as symbols of European aerospace prowess, two of Airbus's unwanted A380 superjumbos face the ignominy of being broken up for spare parts after failing to find an airline willing to keep flying them.
German investment company Dr Peters Group said on Tuesday that the two double-deckers could be "parted out" to recover engines and other spares worth at least $100 million (€85.4 million) per plane if second-hand operators for the passenger planes couldn't be found in coming months.
The Dortmund, Germany-based group owns four A380s due to be returned between October and June by Singapore Airlines following the expiration of 10-year lease deals.
"After extensive as well as intensive negotiations with various airlines such as British Airways, HiFly and IranAir, Dr Peters Group has decided to sell the aircraft components and will recommend this approach to its investors," the company said in a statement to the news agency Reuters.
Dr Peters Group chief executive Anselm Gehling said in an interview earlier that nevertheless some airlines, including a US carrier and British Airways owner IAG, were continuing to evaluate deploying used A380s and would prefer buying the planes as a whole.
"Still, there are hardly any spare parts around when it comes to engines for A380s, so it may make sense to do a part-out for the first one or two aircraft returning," Gehling added.
Singapore Airlines launched A380 services in December 2007, but is returning the aircraft to their German financiers after 10 years as it decided not to extend their lease. Plane maker Airbus was not immediately available for comment, according to several news media.
Two of the discarded aircraft had already been flown to Tarbes in the French Pyrenees to be stored, the German group said. They wouldn't be scrapped entirely, but their huge frames would be combed for valuable components such as landing gears and electronics.
Their engines were still useful and had been leased back to their manufacturer Rolls-Royce for use as spares, an official for the group told Reuters, adding that US company VAS Aero Services would be responsible for extracting and selling parts.
Despite its ample space and excellent reviews for a quiet cabin, demand for the A380 has crumbled as airlines ditch the 544-seat jet in favor of smaller but ultra-efficient twin-engine models.
Experts said the planes now in the mortuary were not typical of current models in service because they were early examples of the new type which tended to be less efficient. Singapore Airlines was still convinced of the Airbus superjumbo as it had ordered some new A380s recently.