Before sunrise Thursday morning, Airbus decided it was time to finally bite the bullet. At around 5:00am GMT, the company announced what we’ve long been expecting: the end of Airbus A380 production.
In 2021, production of the world’s largest passenger jet will be terminated following a painstaking ongoing sales campaign to attempt to secure new orders from airlines around the globe. Airbus was able to announce the end of A380 production following Emirates’ confirmation that the carrier will scale down its A380 order, swapping part of it for the A330neo and A350 XWB — breaking the airlines’ ‘all 777 & A380’ fleet pattern.
While the A380s already in commercial service (airline operators include Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines) will continue to fly well into the next decade or two, Airbus will produce just 14 more A380 aircraft for its largest operator – Emirates, and 3 for Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA).
Production has gradually reduced over the last few years in line with its weak order book. Last year, just 12 out of 800 Airbus deliveries were A380 superjumbo aircraft. Thursday morning’s announcement means around 3,000 jobs are at risk across Airbus’ four home countries: France, Germany, Spain and UK — but the company insist most of these job should be able to be absorbed in a 10% ramp up of Airbus aircraft (A320 and A350) production over the next year.
The A380 is arguably one of the world’s most loved passenger jets — but airlines executives focused on the financial bottom line do not share the love for the superjumbo. Not only is the aircraft perceived as too big, but it’s inefficient compared with newer Airbus models (A350 XWB), and hence frequently branded ‘unnecessary’ — given other commercial jets can fly further more efficiently, while still accommodating a large number of passengers.
The end of A380 production also means that, for the first time since the late 1980s, Airbus will produce only twin-engine commercial jets.
Elsewhere, in an exclusive interview with Aviation Analyst, the CEO of Qatar Airways (an operator of ten A380 aircraft) revealed that the jets will only remain in the fleet until the tenth anniversary of each respective aircraft. It means the first Qatari A380 could exit the fleet as soon as 2024 — “with no second-hand market opportunities” Al Baker told me, given the lack of any airlines interested in introducing the A380 into its fleet.
Unsurpisingly, markets responded positively to the news of the end of the A380 — as investors and shareholders follow the vision of the airlines: a focus on smaller, efficient commercial aircraft.
While this was a widely expected announcement, it’s the beginning of the end of an era — which, is sad for such an incredible jet.
Passengers will continue to be able to fly the A380 for years to come, but if there’s one aspect of the industry that most of us never expected, it’s the fact that Boeing’s 747 looks set to outlive its superjumbo Airbus rival.