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Airbus pulls plug on costly A380 superjumbo as sales plummet

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European aerospace giant Airbus said Thursday that it would stop building its A380 superjumbo, the double-decker jet which earned plaudits from passengers but failed to win over enough airlines to justify its massive costs.

The final two double-deckers will be delivered in 2021, just 14 years after the first A380 went into service, after the Dubai-based Emirates decided to reduce its total orders by 39 planes, Airbus said.

It marks a disappointing end to a bold bet on how millions of people would travel in the future, as airlines struggled to fill a plane capable of carrying anywhere from 500 to 850 people.

"Without Emirates, Airbus has no substantial order backlog and no basis to sustain A380 production after 2021," Guillaume Faure, who is taking over as Airbus CEO from Tom Enders this spring, said in a conference call.

Airbus had at one point chalked up over 320 orders for the superjumbo, which has a list price of $446 million -- though the company often had to offer substantial discounts.

Analysts had warned that Airbus wouldn't start to recover the roughly 25 billion euros in investment and production costs unless at least 400 planes were sold, and possibly up to 600.

Airbus itself never disclosed how many planes it needed to sell to break even, a growing concern among analysts as technical problems and delivery delays piled up.

With the reduced orders from Emirates, the A380's biggest client, Airbus said its order book now stood at just 274 planes.

- 'Sad day' -

The A380's demise is a stark admission of defeat in the race against US rival Boeing, which had pointedly dismissed Airbus's bet that airlines wanted huge transporters serving a handful of global hubs.

Most airlines are instead using traditional -- and less costly -- jets to offer more direct flights between more cities.

Airbus had already warned last year that the A380 programme could be scrapped if no new orders came in.

It later received a lifeline when Emirates ordered 36 more A380s, but on Thursday Airbus said the airline had balked and would buy smaller A330 and A350 models instead.

After just 10 deliveries last year, Airbus will build eight this year, seven in 2020 and the final two in 2021.

"The A380 is a world-class feat of engineering, much loved by passengers, and we are obviously saddened that deliveries will come to an end," said Chris Cholerton, head of civil aerospace at Rolls-Royce, one of the A380's engine suppliers.

Airbus workers in Britain, where the plane's wings are manufactured, and in France where the jet is assembled, also expressed regret over the programme's demise.

The plane-maker has promised that the 3,000-3,500 workers employed on the superjumbo will be moved to other projects.

But Rhys McCarthy of Britain's Unite union said it was nonetheless "a sad day" for its UK employees.

"It is a much-loved aircraft manufactured by a highly skilled workforce," he said.

Jean-Fran�ois Knepper of France's Force Ouvriere union said that although rumours that the programme was set to be scrapped had been swirling at the assembly plant it Toulouse "everyone was hoping for a miracle".

Winding up the programme cut Airbus's 2018 earnings by 463 million euros, but it still posted a 29 percent surge in net profit to three billion euros.

Airbus said it expects to deliver 880 to 890 planes this year after 800 last year, reflecting steady demand for the A320, the workhorse midsize jet for short and medium-range flights.

It is also targeting more clients for its long-haul A350.

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I feel safer in a Boeing, but the A380 is the nicest airliner I have travelled in. Quieter than anything else and comfortable. Maybe the airlines will have to lower prices to get those they already own filled. Going to England by A380 from Dhubai was luxury compared with the Brisbane to Dhubai leg of the journey. Not that I want to go through Dhubai again, it is not my cup of tea. I much prefer Singapore, but Qantas timing through Singapore is not good.

Edited by Yenn

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The A380 is a fantastic aircraft.  Mixed experiences on it though.  Flying Qantas, absolutely brilliant.  Flying Emirates with 3 kids - not so good.  In 2014 we were going to France via Dubai, the Emirates leg was hell... their idea of a meal for our (then) 2-year old, who ate more than us, was a jar of pureed apple.

 

Richard de Crespigny's book QF32 is a great read, shows how safe this aircraft is even with an engine explosion cutting several critical hydraulic and fuel lines.  

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4 hours ago, Yenn said:

I feel safer in a Boeing, but the A380 is the nicest airliner I have travelled in. Quieter than anything else and comfortable. Maybe the airlines will have to lower prices to get those they already own filled. Going to England by A380 from Dhubai was luxury compared with the Brisbane to Dhubai leg of the journey. Not that I want to go through Dhubai again, it is not my cup of tea. I much prefer Singapore, but Qantas timing through Singapore is not good.

Why do you feel safer in a Boeing? There is no logical reason why you should. Would you feel safe in a Boeing 737 Max 8 after the Lion air disaster? The lawsuits are likely to cost Boeing many $billions especially after the revelations that they didn't think it was necessary to advise pilots of some of the automation functions.

 

The A320 is superior to a 737 in most respects & the A380 was just the wrong aircraft for the modern era. 

  • Agree 1

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I think the news of the A380's demise wasn't exactly unexpected. If it wasn't for PetroDollars, AB would have been struggling to sell many at all. The costs of altering hangars and servicing equipment to handle them must have been immense.

I always pondered what would happen if one of them crashed as a total loss, with all aboard wiped out. I bet it gave a lot of emergency agency bosses, sleepless nights.

How do you deal with up to 800 bodies in one air disaster, and a vast amount of destruction on the ground? Hospitals would be overwhelmed, they struggle to cope with modest disasters, now.

My thoughts were, that if one crashed, it would be the final nail in the A380's coffin. But, it appears my thoughts were too negative, and the rule that the bigger the aircraft, the safer it is, is correct.

 

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 Not sure the" bigger the safer" is a direct association  Bigger is more efficient  (Reynolds number and scale effect) also the sheer size of the operation tends to keep it away from less "capable " operators and half @r$ed  environments (less regulated) that plague charter and remote area operators.. Boeing's latest offerings haven't entirely been without blemish or concerns. For operators of the A 380 the commitment decision is formidable. You need a minimum fleet size or be an offshoot of another airline that operates them and the$ 400 million ea and the need to get seats filled (High Load factor) to be profitable  is critical. Probably fares have been artificially LOW for quite a few years now   .Nev

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The A380 is for a relatively niche market and there is alot to risk for airlines.

Purchase price, limited airports, number of bums on seats for profitability and more, make it a very "narrow" instrument.

The scales have tipped in favour of large twin engine airliners which are more readily adaptable to changing market conditions.

You can buy short haul/ long haul, domestic/ international aircraft in the same basic model which streamlines systems (pilot/ maintenance training, parts, planning and operations).

I guess it has been detemined that this now outweighs the benefits of the A380.......

 

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you can almost buy 3 A320s for the price of an A380. most airlines have years and years of experience running smaller planes only Emirates seems to be able to make the A380 work for them

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My reason for feeling safer in a Boeing is based on some of the earlier Airbus failures of automated gear, which resulted in crashes and is probably unfounded in fact. But I do like to have my own likes and dislikes. I didn't say they were less safe.

The Lion Air crash was in part caused by Boeing not making the possible problem known to all, but the fact that previous crews had overcome the problem in that same plane, shows that crew abilities were not good enough.

I have for years been vocal about flight crew abilities. we have seen crashes where the crew did not know what they were doing. The Air France crash into the ocean being one that springs to mind.

Compare that with Richard de Crespignys handling of the failed engine. Do you think a Lion Air crew would have had the same outcome, or even a Thai or Indian airline crew?

Edited by Yenn
missing word
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True the other crew managed to survive and reverted to one of the possible solutions. The other crew used their training and tried what they had been trained. They all died.

 

Maybe a very experienced Qantas crew would have survived. But that is no excuse, Boeing basically sentenced the planes souls to death to save money. I hope they are sued many billions.

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4 hours ago, Yenn said:

My reason for feeling safer in a Boeing is based on some of the earlier Airbus failures of automated gear, which resulted in crashes and is probably unfounded in fact.

Having read through most of the investigations, I don't recall any actual automation failures, just a failure to understand the system, and how to operate it correctly.

We all have our preferences, justified or not. My biggest concern is about the operator, their pilots and maintainers.

I hate travelling on any aircraft I'm not allowed to do a "walkaround " (pilot's before flight servicing) on.

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3 hours ago, M61A1 said:

I hate travelling on any aircraft I'm not allowed to do a "walkaround " (pilot's before flight servicing) on.

If you can make it on to the ramp you might be able to do a quick "run around" with security in hot pursuit.  May not be flying on it afterwards.

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1 minute ago, Marty_d said:

If you can make it on to the ramp you might be able to do a quick "run around" with security in hot pursuit.  May not be flying on it afterwards.

Maybe if I show them my recently acquired ASIC?.....If I have to be there early I might as well do something useful. 

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