In February of this year, Airbus announced that the company would cease production of its A380 jetliner by 2021. The aircraft had often been considered popular with passengers, but airlines were increasingly beginning to drop the wide-body A380.
The biggest blow for the existence of the A380 was when the main customer of the type, Emirates, canceled an order of 39 of the aircraft. The Dubai carrier instead opted to receive 40 A330-900s and 30 A350-900s. This prefaced an announcement from the plane manufacturer, in which it stated that it would build at 17 more A380s before closing the production line for good.
Emirates would be the recipient of 14 of these aircraft, with another three heading to All Nippon Airways. But the increasing tendency of airlines to drop the A380 meant that the aircraft was no longer a tenable production model for Airbus, even though, including these 14, expected deliveries of the aircraft had exceeded 250.
While Airbus considered the decision to discontinue the A380 to be painful, the trend toward smaller and more efficient aircraft ensured the demise of the jetliner. And several other airlines had also canceled orders for the Airbus A380 ahead of the Airbus announcement.
Shortly before Airbus decided to discontinue the A380, Lufthansa opted to return six of the 14 aircraft that it already had in service. And the end of 2018 and early months of 2019 had been terminal for the A380, with several other carriers also canceling orders.
Hong Kong Airlines had confirmed its decision to cancel an order for 10 A380 aircraft on the final day of 2018. But it was the fateful February month that proved disastrous for the aircraft. Qantas canceled an order for eight of the jetliners at the start of the month, and aside from the decision from Emirates, Amedeo and Air Accord also canceled orders equal to 20 and three planes respectively.
Going back further, there were many other cancellations of the A380 before it was eventually discontinued. These are shown below:
- November 27, 2006 – FedEx Express canceled 10 A380s.
- March 2, 2007 – UPS Airlines canceled 10 A380s.
- July 14, 2008 – Etihad canceled 4 A380s.
- January 15, 2009 – Air Austral canceled 2 A380s.
- March 8, 2011 – ILFC canceled 10 A380s.
- September 20, 2013 – Lufthansa canceled 3 A380s.
- December 31, 2013 – Kingfisher Airlines canceled 5 A380s.
- July 29, 2014 – Skymark Airlines canceled 6 A380s.
- February 5, 2015 – Kingdom Holding Company canceled 1 A380.
- February 10, 2017 – Air France canceled 2 A380s.
- March 7, 2018 – Virgin Atlantic canceled 6 A380s.
Evidence at the time indicated that although the A380 is considered a great aircraft by many observers, it simply wasn’t profitable to produce. Even the $445 million price tag of each Airbus A380 aircraft was insufficient to cover production costs, meaning that the airline was losing money on every single sale, as orders continued to evaporate.
There are mixed opinions on why the A380 did not achieve popularity with airlines, but one suggestion is that it’s extremely large capacity was optimized for a hub-and-spoke system, while many airlines had transitioned to a point-to-point system. This meant that the aircraft was unable to overcome efficiency issues related to a smaller number of flights, and was destined to perish in this economic climate.
Despite the problems that it experienced with the A380, Airbus has enjoyed a successful commercial period, outperforming its great rival Boeing.