Airbus to stop making struggling A380 superjumbo in 2021 after Emirates, Qantas cut back orders
Airbus’ decision to stop making A380s could impact up to 3,500 jobs and has already cost more than A$700 million.
(AP: Francois Mori)
European aviation giant Airbus has said it will stop making its superjumbo A380 in 2021 for lack of customers, abandoning the world’s biggest passenger jet and one of the aviation industry’s most ambitious and most troubled endeavours.
- The double-decker 500-seater planes started flying in 2008
- Airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it
- Some carriers put in showers, lounges, duty free shops and bars on both decks
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”.
Last week, Qantas cancelled eight of the 20 A380s it ordered, further contributing to Airbus’ loss.
Qantas initially ordered 20 A380s, but will not be taking the final eight. (ABC News: Andrew George)
The decision could impact up to 3,500 jobs and has already cost the plane manufacturer 463 million euros (A$733.2 million) in losses in 2018, Airbus said.
The end of the young-yet-iconic jet is a boon for rival Boeing and an embarrassing blow for Airbus, a European economic powerhouse.
It’s also sad news for Emirates, which had the A380 as the backbone of its fleet, based out of Dubai, the world’s busiest airport for international travel.
Airbus profits jump despite loss of superjumbo
Despite the A380 announcement, Airbus announced a 29 per cent jump in overall profits last year, and analysts said global demand is high enough for the France-based company to weather the loss of its iconic superjumbo.
The company reported a net profit of 3.1 billion euros over the past year, up from 2.4 billion euros in 2017.
In addition to the A380 loss, Airbus reported a charge of 436 million euros on the A400M, used by several European militaries.
Airbus said it forecasts similar profits in 2019, in line with growth in the world economy and in air traffic.
Emirates announced it had struck a deal valued at $US21.4 billion (A$33.9 billion) with Airbus to replace some A380s with A350 wide-bodies and smaller A330 planes.
“While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the program could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of Emirates.
“For us, the A380 is a wonderful aircraft loved by our customers and our crew.
“It is a differentiator for Emirates. We have shown how people can truly fly better on the A380.”
Some airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate the A380. (Reuters: Toby Melville)
Emirates has long been the largest operator of the A380.
Before Thursday’s announcement, it had 162 of the jumbo jets on order.
The A380 has been a favourite of Emirates’ passengers, especially those in business and first class, which encompassed the entire upper deck of the plane and was complete with a bar in the back.
Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionise air travel as more people take to the skies.
Instead, airlines have been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it.
The double-decker planes started flying in 2008 and seated more than 500 passengers.
The A380 had troubles from the start, including tensions between Airbus’ French and German management and protracted production delays and cost overruns.
These prompted a company restructuring that cost thousands of jobs.
Industry experts initially expected A380s to long outlast the 747, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year.
When it started taking on passengers in 2008, the A380 was hailed for its spaciousness, large windows, high ceilings and quieter engines.
Some carriers put in showers, lounges, duty free shops and bars on both decks.