Airbus says A380 superjumbo production will end

Emirates Airbus A380Image copyright EPA

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has said it will stop making its A380 “superjumbo”, the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

In a statement, the company said it would make its last deliveries of the aircraft in 2021.

The decision comes after Emirates, the largest customer of the A380, reduced its order.

The costly aircraft has struggled to compete with more efficient, smaller models.

What did Airbus say about the decision?

In a statement on Thursday, Airbus said Emirates would reduce its A380 order book from 162 to 123 aircraft.

“As a result of this decision we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years. This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021,” said Airbus chief executive Tom Enders.

“Passengers all over the world love to fly on this great aircraft. Hence today’s announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide.”

The aerospace giant said the impact of the decision was “largely embedded” in the firm’s 2018 results, which showed a net profit for 2018 of €3bn (£2.6bn) up nearly 30% from the previous year.

Airbus said it would deliver between 880 and 890 new commercial aircraft this year.

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Media captionWhy the A380 ‘superjumbo’ never really took off. This video is from Jan 2018

What does it mean for jobs?

Airbus said it would start discussions with partners regarding the “3,000 to 3,500 positions potentially impacted over the next three years”.

The company did not specify which jobs or locations would be affected. But it said increased production of the A320 and the new wide body order from Emirates Airline would offer “a significant number of internal mobility opportunities.”

Airbus UK makes the wings for the A380, employing 6,000 staff at its main wings factory at Broughton in Flintshire, as well as 3,000 at Filton, near Bristol, where wings are designed and supported.

Why is A380 production ending?

The spacious jet, which had its first commercial flight in 2007, was popular with passengers but it was complicated and expensive to build. Production was devolved to different European locations, with final assembly and finishing split between Toulouse and Hamburg.

Demand for the A380 from airlines ultimately dried up as the industry shifted away from larger planes in favour of smaller, wide-body jets.

“The very clear trend in the market is to operate long-haul aircraft with two engines [such as] Boeing’s 787 and 777, and Airbus’s A330 and A350,” said Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor of Flight Global.

Airbus will deliver the last 14 A380s to Emirates over the next two years, and the Dubai-based carrier has ordered 70 smaller aircraft from the planemaker.

Where did Airbus go wrong?

Analysis: By Dominic O’Connell, Today programme business presenter

When Airbus’s A380 first took off it was hailed as a technological marvel that would meet airlines’ needs for a new large aircraft to connect the world’s crowded airport hubs – London, New York, Dubai, Tokyo. Airbus confidently predicted it would make about 1,500 of the giant planes. After today’s decision to end production, the end tally will be just over 250.

In hindsight, airlines were already turning their back on very large aircraft when the A380 made its debut. Advances in engine technology meant planes no longer needed four engines to fly long distances – and carriers were able to use a new generation of light, fuel-efficient, twin-engined aircraft to link secondary cities, bypassing the crowded hubs altogether.

Even though Airbus was aware of the threat posed by these new types of plane, they pressed ahead. There was a bigger game afoot – Airbus needed to negate Boeing’s 747, believing that the profits the American company made on 747 sales were helping it cross-subsidise other, smaller planes. The A380 succeeded in that – the last passenger 747 was built two years ago – but Boeing will have a kind of last laugh. Freighter versions of the 747 will be built past 2021, meaning the venerable jumbo jet will outlive the plane sent to kill it.

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