Could Airbus Build The A380 Again In The Future?

The Airbus A380 was a visionary aircraft that not only improved on the legacy of the mighty Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet but would also become a game-changer in the airline game. But it was an aircraft that simply didn’t fit the economics of our time, and found itself retired well before breaking any records.

Air France A380
The A380 was a game-changing plane that never really took off. Photo: abdallahh via Flickr

But could it really be the end of the aircraft? Or might we see its like again?

Why was the A380 canceled?

The A380 was canceled last year due to increasing pressures from competition, fuel prices and a lack of orders.

Despite being used by 13 different airlines over the course of 10 years, the A380 failed to grab a huge market dominance like its rival the Boeing 747. In fact, the A380 failed to penetrate the lucrative USA market, with no American carriers ever ordering the type.

The A380 had a massive seating capacity, but its fuel efficiency was so low and its operational cost so high that airlines were reluctant to expand its use. Additionally, newer aircraft like the Boeing 787 and A350 offered massive improvements to fuel efficiency, and the ability to operate more than one or two daily services (frequency of flights has been proven popular with passengers) eventually led to the end of the A380.

“The A380 is not only an outstanding engineering and industrial achievement. Passengers all over the world love to fly on this great aircraft. Hence today’s announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide.” – Airbus chief executive, Tom Enders

Emirates, who still is the world’s largest operator of the A380 type, has since decided to reduce its total Airbus A380 from originally 162 aircraft to 123 remaining A380s (Most of which will replace the current fleet operating) and will buy 40 smaller A330-900 and 30 A350-900 aircraft instead.

“While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the program could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation. For us, the A380 is a wonderful aircraft loved by our customers and our crew. It is a differentiator for Emirates. We have shown how people can truly fly better on the A380.” – Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman, and CEO of Emirates when canceling the order.

A380 China Southern Airlines
China Southern continues to operate the A380, for now. Photo: China Southern Airlines

Would Airbus ever build it again?

That being said, would Airbus ever build the A380 again?

Whilst at first this idea might sound a bit far fetched (after all we just used 400 words above to explain why the A380 can’t exist today) there are a few things that, if changed, would make the A380 more popular.

The first is fuel prices. If fuel prices were reduced or perhaps an alternative was offered (such as biofuel) the A380 would become very attractive. There is no denying that fuel burn per seat of the A380 is one of the best in the industry (Until we get around to building that Lockheed Martin supersonic A380) and if the price of fuel was less important, then orders could potentially flood in.

Alternatively, if the world’s population increased, then the A380 would be very useful. We already have seen Malaysian Airways use the A380 for pilgrimage flights and the Hi Fly A380 used for holidaymakers to remote African islands, thus the A380 still has a very useful role in the skies. Plus, we have yet to see a cargo version of the A380 built (perhaps as a conversion), that whilst it would not be as efficient as the Boeing 747-8F, has an undeniable amount of cargo space onboard.

air france A380
Airfrance will retire the A380 by 2022. Photo: Wikimedia

Lastly, we can’t forget that the A380 is an already proven and certified aircraft world-wide. Airbus will always have the ability to quickly ‘turn the factory back on’ and continue production with minimal development cost. Likely a new A380 would have improvements and be even more attractive (you can read about the proposed A380neo here).

What do you think? Will Airbus ever relaunch the A380? Let us know in the comments.