After announcing the end of the A380 program in February 2019, Airbus still had plenty of orders left to be fulfilled. However, a slew of cancellations soon followed the announcement as airlines looked to alternative aircraft. The number of A380s left to be delivered is now in the single digits.
Just eight A380s to be delivered
Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways took delivery of its final A380 last week – the third A380 in its fleet. While the plane may not physically arrive in Japan until next year, the paperwork is done and dusted. This leaves Emirates as the sole airline awaiting delivery of new A380s. The Dubai-based carrier is waiting on eight A380 planes for delivery, despite the fact the airline retired its first A380 only last month.
The first A380 is expected to arrive this month, with another plane scheduled for delivery in December. Although airlines across the globe have grounded or plan to retire their A380s, Emirates remains loyal to the superjumbo. The carrier has over 100 A380s in their fleet, with the plane still very much in their long-term plans. As Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates, explained in an interview with Aviation Business,
“The A380 was probably the best thing that could have happened to Emirates and certainly Dubai. We value it enormously, we regret the fact it’s gone out of production.”
Very few A380s have returned to the skies
Because of the severe drop in demand for air travel, particularly long-haul international flights, carriers around the world have grounded their A380s. In many cases, it looks highly unlikely they will ever return to the skies. Emirates has reactivated just 10 A380s out of its fleet of 114, with international flights resuming to key destinations including London, Paris and Moscow.
The airline has also laid off or furloughed a large chunk of its A380 pilot workforce, raising questions about the future of the aircraft. The Emirates workforce now consists of just 25% A380 pilots, with 75% trained to pilot the Boeing 777. While Emirates has clarified the plane remains in its long-term plans, these figures would suggest the carrier is not optimistic about its A380 fleet returning to the skies any time soon.
Airbus adapts its production line
Airbus has been hard at work shifting production to other planes since discontinuing the A380 program. After cutting plane production by one-third in April, the planemaker has adapted its old A380 production lines to focus on A320 aircraft. Under current projections, Airbus will increase its monthly production rate from 40 to 47 planes.
The move comes as airlines look towards more cost-efficient planes to navigate an uncertain economic climate. Narrowbodies are very much in demand, with airlines gravitating towards narrowbody planes even before the COVID crisis hit. Airbus recently invested 60 million euros towards A321XLR production at its facility in Saint Nazaire.
Is Emirates smart to stick by the A380, or should it start looking at alternatives? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.