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Airbus grounds production of A380 superjumbo

A double-decker Airbus A380 taking off on its maiden flight from Toulouse-Blagnac airport on 27 April 2005.
A double-decker Airbus A380 taking off on its maiden flight from Toulouse-Blagnac airport on 27 April 2005. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

European aerospace multinational Airbus said on Thursday that it would stop manufacturing the double-decker A380 aircraft, the superjumbo popular with travellers but too costly for many airlines.


“Due to the lack of airline demand we have to wind down production of the A380,” Airbus said in its full year results for 2018.

Airbus said Dubai-based airline Emirates had reduced its order of A380 by 39 planes, leaving just 14 superjumbos in the order book left to be delivered.

“As a consequence of this decision and given the lack of order backlog with other airlines, deliveries of the A380 will cease in 2021,” said Airbus.

The company, which has its headquarters in Toulouse, had been forced to slow down its production of the A380 in recent years and warned in January 2018 that the model could be scrapped if new orders were not forthcoming.

Emirates had appeared to throw Airbus a lifeline with an announcement of a new A380 deal shortly after the plane maker’s warning. However, last month Airbus said Emirates was reconsidering.

Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders said the decision by Emirates meant the company had no backlog of A380 orders and therefore “no basis to sustain production”, despite efforts to sell the superjumbo to other airlines.

The death of the A380 could be likened to the demise of Concorde built by the British-French predecessor to Airbus. Concorde never proved its commercial viability despite its design achieving a number of technological feats.

The A380 was born of a desire to compete with Boeing’s hugely successful 747 and the concept for the double-decker was conceived in the early 1990s.

Its production befell a number of expensive delays before Airbus completed the first commercial flight by Singapore Airlines in 2007.

Issues with production and overrunning on costs plagued the project and led to the pan-European company reporting it’s first-ever loss for the 2006 financial year.

Airbus also stuck with the superjumbo despite the financial crisis of 2007 when carriers started to reconsider operating the A380 which was only profitable when passenger load factor was high.

Arch rival Boeing had instead concentrated on the midsize 787 Dreamliner which has proved much more successful with more than 1,100 sold compared with a little more than 320 of Airbus’ A380.

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