Airbus Just Pulled the Plug on the Biggest Passenger Plane in the World
Airbus has announced plans to stop producing the A380, the largest passenger plane in the world, just 12 years after it first went into service. While the ability to comfortably cram more people into a single plane and provide decent leg room...
If you thought/secretly hoped that commercial airplanes would keep getting bigger and bigger, then you’re in for some bad news. Airbus has announced plans to stop producing the A380, the largest passenger plane in the world, just 12 years after it first went into service. While the ability to comfortably cram more people into a single plane and provide decent leg room was alluring for some airlines, the enormous plane simply couldn’t compete with smaller, more efficient aircrafts.
Airbus said the last deliveries of the A380 aircraft would be made in 2021, according to a report from the BBC. The news has rocked passengers and jumbo jet fans around the world. The extravagant plane, which can haul as many as 850 passengers, was credited by some with resurrecting “the glamour of flying" -- especially by those who could afford first class tickets. The giant aircraft features two floors and finishings like showers and lounges, providing travelers with a truly exceptional in-flight experience. But its jumbo elegance was its ultimate downfall.
The decision was made after Emirates, Airbus’ biggest purchaser of the gigantic $25 billion planes, cut its order. The airline will reduce its overall A380 fleet size from 162 planes to 123, which may not seem like a lot, but was enough to put the final nail in the coffin for Airbus’ oversized aircrafts. Emirates ordered 14 A380s, to be delivered over the next two years, along with 70 of Airbus’ smaller planes, like the A330 and A350.
“Emirates has been a staunch supporter of the A380 since its very inception,” Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said in a statement. “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.”
The short order meant continuing production on the extremely expensive aircrafts simply wasn’t realistic for Airbus, according to CEO Tom Enders. He said there was “no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years.” The company has taken a €463 million (about $523 million) charge for shutdown costs, but anticipates that repaying government loans could help pad its loss. The impact of cutting the A380 was “largely embedded” in Airbus’ 2018 results, which showed a €3 billion (about $3.38 billion) net profit -- up 30% from 2017, per the report.
The implications of axing the A380 extend to more than just Airbus’ finances, however. The company plans to start talking with partners about the “3,000 to 3,500 positions potentially impacted over the next three years.” The BBC reported that close to 200 jobs in the United Kingdom could be in trouble as a result of the decision, which is no small number. Airbus said it hopes to send a “significant” number of employees working on the soon-to-be defunct airplane to other projects.
On the bright side for travelers, the more than 200 A380s already in use will continue to criss-cross the planet. Along with Emirates, several other airlines -- Qantas, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, and Korean Air, among others -- utilize the oversized aircraft on some of their longest routes.
The A380 first took to the skies as a commercial jet in 2007. Singapore Airlines was the first to use the plane, and it was popular with passengers. The plane, however, was difficult and expensive to build, which led to problems down the line. As the industry shifted away from larger planes, interest in the A380 dwindled. Airbus began working on a revamped, more efficient version of the A380, but needed to generate enough interest in the initial plane to conceive the 2.0 version.
Airbus created the A380 in response to the 747, created by Boeing. They were able to ultimately kill the plane as passenger flights were concerned, but Boeing recently announced plans to build freighter versions of the plane well past 2021, meaning it will outlive the plane that set out to outdo it.
The lesson here, ultimately, is that the best things -- even commercial planes -- come in small, uncomplicated packages.
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