With their end of year activity reports now out in the open, we already know Airbus failed to beat Boeing in the race to be the world’s largest plane maker for 2018. Despite hitting their targets, they missed out on taking the crown by just six jets. And now their order book has shrunk just slightly.
As part of their end of year activity reports, Airbus detailed all their aircraft orders and deliveries for 2018. Within this, it seems they have dropped an order for 10 of their behemoth A380 aircraft, which were previously allocated to an unknown customer.
This takes the total orders for the A380 to just 321 over the life of the project. It also cuts their year end backlog to 87, having delivered 12 of the aircraft over the past year.
Whose order was it?
The customer for whom the order was cancelled is listed by Airbus as ‘undisclosed’. However, with some insight (and a bit of help from Google) it looks like that was an order which has been hanging around since 2011 from Hong Kong Airlines.
Media published news of an order for 10 Airbus A380s worth $3.8bn made by Hong Kong Airlines in late 2011. At the time, the head of corporate governance for the airline, Kenneth Thong, commented that the super-sized jet would help the airline’s growth, particularly in business class services to Europe.
Subsequently it was reported in July 2014 that Hong Kong Airlines were in negotiation with Airbus to cancel this order. The reason why? It was said that it was down to their sister airline, Hong Kong Aviation Capital, ordering 40 A320neo and 30 A321neo aircraft at that year’s Farnborough Airshow.
However, at the time there was also some rumour that it was down to a new European directive, which would impose taxation on airlines flying in EU airspace. The taxes related to carbon emissions, and, as we know, the A380 is something of a gas guzzler!
The airline is a totally Airbus carrier, with a fleet of 43 aircraft including A320s, A330s and six A350s. They have orders in for 28 more aircraft from Airbus, all A330s and A350s. Their A350s serve North America from Hong Kong, and with 33 lie flat business seats per aircraft and far greater efficiency, they’ve almost certainly filled the niche originally planned for the A380.
The black sheep of the family
The Airbus A380 is something of a black sheep among the Airbus family. Despite being hugely iconic, the inefficient giant jet is not a popular model with airlines. Difficulties in filling it to capacity as well as options for more efficient, less expensive jets leaves the A380 as one of the slowest selling models Airbus have ever produced. Some are already in ‘aircraft graveyards‘.
Despite this, the company still have a large backlog of orders for the plane, albeit with the lions share coming from good old Emirates. Having only delivered 12 in 2018, their current backlog, even with 10 removed, will ensure it remains in production for many years to come.
In total, there are 87 outstanding orders for the A380, 53 of which are for Emirates. The company is cutting production down to just 8 per year from 2019 onwards, so although the A380 has failed to turn a profit yet, they’re committed to pressing ahead for at least another decade.