Iconic A380 jet to end after Emirates reduces order

Emirates Airline, the largest A380 customer, said it had reached an agreement with Airbus to reduce the total order of the aircraft from 162 to 123 jets.
Sunday 17/02/2019
An Emirates Airbus A380-800 airliner prepares to land at Nice international airport, France, January 18, 2018. (Reuters)
An Emirates Airbus A380-800 airliner prepares to land at Nice international airport, France, January 18, 2018. (Reuters)

European plane maker Airbus announced it would stop making its superjumbo A380 in 2021 for lack of customers, after key client Emirates cut back its orders.

The decision marks the end of production of the world’s biggest passenger jet and one of the aviation industry’s most ambitious but troubled endeavours, constituting a symbolic blow for the European aerospace company.

On February 14, Emirates Airline, the largest A380 customer, said it had reached an agreement with Airbus to reduce the total order of the aircraft from 162 to 123 jets.

The airline will take delivery of 14 more A380s from 2019 until the end of 2021, it said in a statement. 

However, Emirates signed a new deal with Airbus for 40 A330-900s and 30 A350-900s worth $21.4 billion.

The end of the young yet iconic A380 jet is a boon for rival Boeing and a blow to Airbus, which is also bracing for serious disruption to its cross-continental manufacturing from a potentially chaotic British exit from the EU next month.

 “It’s a painful decision for us,” CEO Tom Enders said. “We’ve invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources, a lot of sweat … but we need to be realistic.”

It’s also sad news for Emirates, which has the A380 as the backbone of its fleet, based out of Dubai, the world’s busiest airport for international travel.

When it started taking on passengers in 2008, the A380 was hailed for its roominess, large windows, high ceilings and quieter engines. Some carriers put in showers, lounges, duty free shops and bars on both decks.

Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionize 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.

The A380 had troubles from the start, including tensions between Airbus’ French and German management and protracted production delays and cost overruns. Those prompted a company restructuring that cost thousands of jobs.

Among early detractors of the A380 was analyst Richard Aboulafia of Washington-based Teal Group, who said its demise “was inevitable.”

“But thanks to the strength of the market right now, and the strength of Airbus’s other products, the damage will not have a huge impact on the industry,” he told The Associated Press. “For Boeing, it has been a very long time since they needed to worry about the A380 as a competitive factor.”

Airbus reported net profit of 3.1 billion euros over last year, up from 2.4 billion euros in 2017.

But it also reported losses: In addition to the A380 hit, Airbus reported a charge of 436 million euros on the A400M, used by several European militaries — and another 123 million-euro charge for complying with ethics rules as the company faces fraud investigations in the U.S., Britain and France.

Airbus said it forecasts similar profits in 2019, in line with growth in the world economy and air traffic.

It promised airlines that it would still maintain the more than 230 A380s currently in flight, with Faury calling it a “benchmark” for the company even as its death is being programmed.

Emirates said Thursday it had struck a deal valued at $21.4 billion with Airbus to replace some A380s with A350 wide-bodies and smaller A330 planes.

(With AP, Reuters)