emirates a380 terminal dubai

Airbus Announces End of A380 Production

Sad times for A380 fans. In a statement today Airbus stated it would officially end production of the A380 programme. Airbus would make the last deliveries in 2021.

Emirates has reduced its outstanding order of 162 A380s to 123.

As a result of this decision, we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years” said Airbus chief Tom Enders.

If the 747 was the Queen, the A380 is the friendly whale of the skies.

The beginning

Back in spring 2005, I watched as a teenager with great elation the first ever A380 to take to the skies. It’s sheer size alone marked a new breakthrough. That such a huge behemoth can lift off with almost 800 souls screamed defying gravity louder than ever. Yet it was quiet. Quieter than any airplane before it. I was lucky enough to see it in the flesh at the November Dubai air show that year. It captivated Emirates as much as the avgeeks. It was a joy to watch as it is to ride.

Why has the A380 has not been more successful?

The A380 programme never quite took off as anticipated. Airbus was betting on the strength of the hub to hub model and the scarce capacity issues of major airports around the world, like Heathrow. Only things did not transpire that way.

The market spoke and hammered in the preference for more direct point to point connections. Airlines accordingly found the smaller and leaner frames of 787 and A350, with more efficient engines and lighter carbon fibre composites, served that purpose.

Even in the 2007 launch was welcomed with great fanfare, it was a very different time prior to the shock financial crisis, which also drastically shifted the industry to smaller planes. The A380 is an expensive asset to run, if you cannot know confidently that it would be filled. Airbus struggled to get as many airlines onboard. It took many years of deliveries just to break even.

Upgrade plan

For the last couple of years, the future of the A380 was in question. Airbus had a predicament on its hands. Should it go for the A380NEO concept to make the A380 more attractive? They explored ways to increase the use of its vast square footage. It toyed with the 11 seats across idea, much to the uneasiness of fans and aviation enthusiasts alike. Airbus surely could not update the A380 just for one customer, Emirates.

Last year, Emirates threw the programme a lifeline, with a renewed order for 20 frames, and option for 16 more. This $16 billon deal has been in trouble for last few months, due to problems with the choice of engines. So this seems to be it. While we will still see these incredible birds in the skies for many years yet, I for one am blue that its days are numbered.

*Image courtesy of Business Traveller