Why The Airbus A380 Was Not A Complete Failure

The A380 will be ending production soon. It never sold as well as twinjet Airbus A350s, A330s, or Boeing 777s and 787s. It guzzled fuel and could only operate at a limited number of airports around the world. On paper, it may seem like the A380 was the biggest white elephant for plenty of airlines. But, taking a step back and looking at it from an aviation industry perspective, it was not a complete failure. Here’s why.

The Airbus A380 was not a complete failure. Photo: Getty Images

Emirates showed the A380 could be successful

Few airlines are as synonymous with an aircraft type as Emirates. The Dubai-based airline is the largest operator and customer of the Airbus A380. It will take a few more A380s before production winds down and has largely reached its limit as to the number of A380s it wants to operate, but Emirates still made the plane a success.

Much of the world operates on a hub-and-spoke model. From Dubai, Emirates was transporting millions of passengers each year. The A380 made that model perfect. Geographically, few areas outside the Middle East are ideal stopover points for as many destinations as Dubai is. Emirates’ hub model shuffles passengers between India and Europe and North America, Australia and Europe, Africa and Europe, North America, and Asia, Southeast Asia to Europe and South America, and many more.

Emirates A380
Emirates has used the A380 to support its sizeable hub-and-spoke system. Photo: Getty Images

In large part, due to geography, Emirates’ hub-and-spoke system is a massive success that requires large-volume planes on the highest density routes. This made the A380 a perfect choice for the carrier.

Using the A380, Emirates was able to make its mark in the sky. Few airlines are as well-known and well-loved as Emirates. Using this aircraft, Emirates became one of the largest airlines in the world in terms of passengers carried.

Qantas A380
Qantas also showed the A380 could be successful. Photo: Getty Images

On smaller scales, other airlines have shown that the A380 can be successful. Qantas made an amazing profit on its Dallas to Sydney route (operated with an A380). Also, Qantas made a profit on its routes to London, some of which were also performed using an A380.

The A380 excited passengers

Many passengers love the A380 experience. Similar to the 747, the A380 is outfitted in a 3-4-3 configuration. Given the plane’s large width, flying on a long-haul in coach became quite comfortable. With plenty of room for galleys and lavatories, passengers could get a choice of nice, hot meals and not have to wait long to use a toilet.

Emirates A380 bar
A bar and lounge on a plane? Most passengers will only find it on an A380. Photo: Getty

The onboard lounge found on several airlines’ A380s makes for a nice inflight break. On a long-haul from say Sydney to Dubai or London to Los Angeles or Los Angeles to Sydney, a chance to stretch your legs and get a change of scenery is a welcome break. Plus, for people traveling in groups who may be separated in terms of seating, there’s room to mingle about a little. Not to mention, plenty of storage for carry-on bags.

It indeed was an engineering marvel

Most people will never travel on a plane larger than the Airbus A380– for now. But the jet was a true engineering marvel and showed the industry what engineers could accomplish. If the aircraft was a twin-engine, there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the jet would have been a hot seller with more airlines, and some carriers would not have parked them or retired them in the current crisis.

Singapore Airlines uses the A380 on some high profile routes. Photo: Getty Images

Designing and constructing a plane that large is quite a feat. With miles and miles of wiring, many square feet of materials, and so many intricate parts that come together to create a great travel experience, Airbus engineers put their best foot forward and built a fantastic plane. As for how it looks on the outside, well, that will evoke a fair bit of debate for some time to come.

Singapore a380 alice spring
The sheer size of an A380 is impressive. Photo: Getty Images

At the same time, engineers and designers also learned from their mistakes. First, airlines love fuel efficiency, the cargo convertibility would have been an enormous boon for the plane, and the jet did not further expand the hub-and-spoke model outside of a few airlines (like Emirates).

While the plane does only operate to a limited number of airports around the world, when it arrives somewhere, it makes for quite the sight. Airlines and airports celebrate the aircraft’s arrival as a recognition of the type. An example of this would be the recent one-off service Emirates performed to Clark.

Do you think the Airbus A380 was a complete failure? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!