Airbus Gives Up on World's Biggest Passenger Jet

Mae Love
February 14, 2019

Airbus says it will stop manufacturing its iconic A380 superjumbo jet, the world's largest passenger plane.

Now, Airbus confirms that the Gulf carrier is indeed reducing its orderbook, but is scrapping not just the latest order of 20 aircraft.

The costly aircraft has struggled to compete with more efficient, smaller models.

Due to weaker demand, the Dubai carrier is expected to scale down these purchases and place greater focus on smaller models in a shake-up that could have implications for both Airbus and its USA rival Boeing, industry sources said.

Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac) has announced it will end the production of A380-800s in 2021 as the programme's last remaining customer, Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l), has reduced its order by thirty-nine units.

Barely a decade after the 500-plus-seat plane started carrying passengers, Airbus said in a statement that key client Emirates is cutting back its orders for the plane, and as a result, "we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production". "We have invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources and a lot of sweat.but obviously we need to be realistic", Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said.

Emirates is by far the largest operator of the A380 superjumbo, with almost 110 of the aircraft in service, a figure that equates to almost half of all A380s delivered to airlines so far.

The company did not specify which jobs or locations would be affected. Because of the lack of airline demand, the superjumbo production is to cease in 2021.

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Between 3,000 and 3,500 jobs will be potentially impacted by the end of A380 manufacturing, Airbus said.

The giant aircraft's first commercial flight to Europe - a Singapore Airlines service - arrived at Heathrow on March 3 2008.

The A320 is a narrow-body jet which in December had been ordered by more than 70 airlines, and is now used by the likes of American Airlines, Lufthansa, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. Emirates also has orders for 35 Boeing 777-8 and 115 777-9, with options for 50 more.

Confirming a shake-up first reported by Reuters, it said Emirates - the largest A380 customer - had made a decision to reduce its orders for the iconic superjumbo and order a total of 70 of the smaller A350 and A330neo models.

Where did Airbus go wrong?

However, the airline shut down before it could take any of the five A380s ordered by it.

The timing of any final announcement may be driven by the outcome of those talks, but Airbus will be under pressure to provide some clarity on its plans in time for Thursday's update, following mounting speculation over the plane's future.

Airbus spent $25 billion developing the double-decker, four-engine aircraft, which can carry more than 500 passengers while offering amenities like showers and a bar. The A380 succeeded in that - the last passenger 747 was built two years ago - but Boeing will have a kind of last laugh.

Even though Airbus was aware of the threat posed by these new types of plane, they pressed ahead.

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