The First Airbus A380s Are Now Being Sent to the Scrapyard

It is a sad day for A380 enthusiasts. The world’s largest passenger aircraft is approaching the end of its production life as the first two A380s head for recycling. Let’s track the timeline for how we got here.

The Launch

The road to the A380 actually started in the late 1980s. The success of high-capacity airliners like the 747 (and indirectly the combined success of the DC-10s and L-1011s, although the market could not sustain both variants), led Airbus to work towards developing a challenger to the iconic 747.

Pan Am
The 747 was a success among passengers and airlines alike. In this image, Boeing President Bill Allen and Pan Am CEO Juan Trippe (right) celebrate the launch of the Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet” in 1968. The longtime friends sealed the deal on selling the airplanes to Pan Am with a handshake while on a fishing trip. Photo: Boeing

The largest aircraft type Airbus offered at the time was the A300. The twin-engine A330 and four-engine A340 were still under development. However, these aircraft could not break into the high-capacity airliner segment.

A China Airlines A300

The 1990s

In the mid-’90s, Airbus sought to develop their own ultra-high-capacity airliner. Dubbed the Airbus “A3XX”, the original proposals came in two different designs. One was to create an extra-wide aircraft with two A340 fuselages. The other idea was to create a double-decker aircraft.

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As the design process continued, Airbus suffered a blow as an economic crisis struck East Asia. Instead of terminating the project, Airbus started working to engineer a double-decker aircraft with high capacity.

ANA A380
The iconic ANA A380 would never have come to be if Airbus had canceled the A3XX in wake of an East Asian financial crisis. Photo: ANA

The 2000s

In 2000, Airbus launched the A3XX as the A380. Skipping the traditional sequential progression, the idea of including the “8” was to appeal to Asian markets where 8 is a lucky number. In addition, the 8 also represented the double decker cross-section of the plane.

The project was launched with 50 orders from five airlines and a leasing company: Air France, Emirates, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and the International Lease Finance Corp.

Emirates A380
Emirates was one of the original customers for the A380

The Reveal

In 2005, Airbus revealed the first A380. Fittingly registered as “F-WWOW,” the A380 was an engineering marvel.

Airbus revealed the A380 in Toulouse on January 18, 2005

The maiden flight of the A380 occurred on April 27, 2005.

A shot from the A380’s maiden flight.

After completing some tests and receiving certification from various agencies, it was time for the A380 to enter passenger service….or not.

Delayed Entry

Due to the massive complexity of the A380, the entry of the aircraft was delayed due to the complexity of securing over 300 miles of wiring in the aircraft. These delivery delays proved to be costly for Airbus and were expected to cost up to €5 billion.

Finally, in 2007, Singapore Airlines flew the first A380. It was a special event. The flight was numbered as SQ380 and flew from Singapore to Sydney.

Singapore Airlines flew the first A380 commercial flight from Singapore to Sydney.

The A380 Today

Emirates is the largest operator of the A380 and has the most aircraft on order. Other A380 operators include Lufthansa, Qantas, Singapore, Air France, Korean Air, China Southern, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, British Airways, Asiana Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and our personal favorite, charter airline Hi Fly.

HiFlyA380
Hi Fly’s A380

ANA will also soon start flying A380s to Hawaii.

Since the first delivery of the A380, the excitement around the aircraft has dulled in the form of orders. Emirates is the only airline keeping the A380 alive.

Dr. Peters Group has two A380s sitting in Toulouse which are being torn down for parts. Dr. Peters Group has worked a deal with engine manufacturer Rolls Royce for leasing the engines back to them. The rest of the aircraft will be recycled and sold out wherever it will be needed.

The process is expected to take some time but will ultimately turn a profit for the Dr. Peters Group. They expect to see a return on investment of 145-155% after the aircraft is completely recycled and usable parts are sold.

More A380s will probably follow suit as Air France seeks to reduce their A380 fleet. The secondary market for A380s has not been very strong as Hi Fly is the only carrier that took on one of Singapore’s ex-A380s for their charter and leasing operations.

Hifly a380
Is the sun setting for the A380?

The A380 is an iconic aircraft that will be around for some time as Emirates continues to take delivery of them. However, without a strong market for the A380, the sun seems to be setting on the age of this marvel of engineering.

Do you like the A380? What airlines do you wish would order the A380? Let us know in the comments below!

21 comments
  1. I think I have about 25 hours in coach on the A380 via Emirates. It is the quietest, most comfortable aircraft I have ever flown in. I look forward to the next flight.

    1. I agree. I flew on the second A380 Singapore Airlines put in service on its first return flight from Sydney. It was the most amazing flight ever. I got off feeling fresh and sad the flight was over. I’m sad the A380 is stopping production. It’s like concord again.

  2. Will only fly Emirates and the A380 nothing Els. Did a long Haul from Dubai to JFK and wow how comfortable and quiet this aircraft is.

  3. For what relatively more comfort it provides, is an average passenger willing to pay more for his or her seat? I am afraid not. Decision to fly on an A380 also depends on multiple other factors including suitable and available flights. There is just so few A380 flights. The higher per seat cost simply makes it uneconomical for airlines to operate this plane no matter how good it is. It is simply not a suitable airplane for today’s market.

    1. It’s basically a flying hotel (or should I say… ship? It’s that big)!!! And I absolutely love it. Whenever there’s a A380 operating the route I want to fly I always book that flight, even if it’s x2 as expensive. If people prefer one of the 201 seats in a Ryanair’s B737 that’s their choice. I’ve even flown on the A380 directly for as much as I would have flown on a SunExpress flight with a stop-over. Just keeping an eye on the ticket-prices lets you know what a certain route’s ticket averages and if it’s worth it.

  4. pure economics is not a factor on this type of aircraft, Emirates have tapped into this perfectly, it is an icon or style and quiet flying, it is by far the best aircraft I have ever flown on, with Emirates of course, it attracts passengers on particular routes, Emirates will of course have to buy the successor to it and replace all the older planes with an improved engine and upgraded A380, maybe the A381Neo.

  5. I wish Air NZ would have three A380s on LHR service Would be so much more comfortable on such a long flight ,but we have to put up with a sardine tin !

  6. The A380 without doubt is a technical marvel and if the economic circumstance hadn’t changed (the GFC in 2008), it may have garnered more orders. For long haul hub to hub airlines like QF, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, the aircraft makes sense. For the point to point operations, the B787 and the A350 are the perfect solutions. I don’t think the A380 will be looked at in a nostalgic way in 50 years time like the 747 is now.

  7. Airbus will never recoup the development cost of the 380, the Bombadier C ser jets ? that was handed to Airbus for not even a song,Boeing sure shot itself in the foot on that one.

  8. I wish ANY of the great American carriers would buy a A380, but my first choice to buy a A380 would be jetBlue. Imagine the Airbus Beluga became a passenger aircraft!

  9. Aviation seems to be moving back in time these days, concord now the A380 to name a few. Airliners r just doing wat benefits them and customer experience second. Which other aircraft is going to offer showers (for those who fly first class) and for those in economy, with the retirement of this aircraft probably means more crammed sitting. Looking as in the case of American Airlines with its new 737 Max aircrafts. They are cramming in as much seats as possible in these tiny aircraft (goodbye passenger comfort) so much to the extent that even their own cabin crew voiced their opinion that it seemed that the main cabin was getting too crammed with seats. The CEO had to take a flight seating in economy just to prove that everything was ok and passengers would be alright. So expect more of this stuff with these smaller ‘profitable’ aircrafts.

  10. So sad to see this marvel of aerospace engineering prowess being phased out and scrapped already.
    Perhaps some of these airships could be purchased and turned into hotels outside of aerospace industry destination cities, such as the Mojave Air & Space Port
    ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mojave_Air_and_Space_Port ) as a draw for aerospace tourism that the area is already becoming known for.
    Imagine – an aluminium double decker hotel with a bowling alley in the former cargo hold!

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