On Thursday 14 February Airbus officially confirmed the end of A380 and due to a lack of airline demand, the superjumbo production is to cease in 2021. Apart from Emirates, whilst the iconic passenger airliner might be admired by aviation enthusiasts, it never gained much popularity with customers. As of 31 January 2019, the superjumbo only generated only 313 orders. More recently, the news of airlines cancelling their A380 orders was much more common than somebody actually ordering the aircraft.
In November 2018, Air France decided to get rid of half of its A380s fleet by not renewing their leases.
In June 2018, Singapore Airlines, the launch customer of the model, returned two superjumbos to a lessor, German investment company Dr Peters Group. The lessor struggled to find new customers for the aircraft so much, that it decided to scrap the two A380s and sell them for parts.
However, the end of A380 series truly started to look like a possibility at the beginning of 2019, when even Emirates, the largest customer of the model, responsible for over half (162 as of 31 January 2019) of all its sales started doubting the airliner. In February 2019, Airbus admitted the ongoing talks with the Gulf carrier, while previous reports indicated it was looking to convert some or all of its recent order for 20 A380s into smaller and newer A350s or A330s. Now, Airbus has confirmed that the Gulf carrier is indeed reducing its order book, but is scrapping not just the latest order of 20 aircraft, but in fact, Emirates is cancelling 39 A380s, leaving only 14 in Airbus backlog. Besides Emirates, the only other order of A380 remains the one by ANA for three aircraft.
A380 was never meant for a high-volume market, Tom Enders stated during a press conference on 14 February 2019. In fact, the first time the programme stopped making losses for the company and broke-even was in 2015. But since then, the question of its future rose over and over again, so stopping the production is “the right decision at right now”, Enders believes.
Many years ago I was privileged to be invited to undertake a tour of Airbus facilities in Toulouse, France at the time when the A380 was about to be introduced into the world market. At the time I clearly remember being impressed at the sheer size and engineering scope of this iconic airliner and frankly I sincerely hoped the type would be a success. I clearly remember the great debate between Airbus and Boeing, where Airbus believed in the theory of HUB to HUB, whereas Boeing’s marketing philosophy was POINT to POINT. At that time the Airbus A340 series (four-engine airliner) was also failing due to the advent of more economical and reliable jet engines. Airbus also never launched its A380F (freighter), which meant that the new Boeing 747-8F gained considerable market share in this segment.
The A340 programme was also halted after just 377 deliveries, whilst in contrast, the Boeing 777 programme has already delivered 1 584 airliners with 326 orders of the new Boeing 777X, soon to be launched confirmed. In contrast, Airbus also launched its answer to Boeing’s twin-engine long-range airline with its super fuel-efficient A350 that has attracted considerable orders, which according to the Airbus website stands at 894 airliners.