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.

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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.

  1. Sorry to be pedantic but “Malaysian Airways” the writer referred to should really be “Malaysia Airlines”.

    Is there a difference ? Quite so. Malaysian Airways was the name of Malaysia Airlines about more than 47 years ago!

    Malaysia Airlines started as Malayan Airways. And then, in 1963, when the Federation of Malaya joined with Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo to become Federation of Malaysia, the airline was changed to “Malaysian Airways”.

    Then, in 1966, when Singapore separated from Malaysia, the airline became “Malaysia-Singapore AIrlines” .(affectionately known the “MSA”. )

    In 1972, MSA was split into Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) and Singapore Airlines (SIA). Singapore Airlines even took over the sarong kebaya clad stewardess uniform for its “Singapore Girl” stewardesses.

    Of course, later on, Malaysia Airlines System became Malaysia Airlines (Berhad) when it was reorganized.

    There you have it.

  2. The end of the A380 is the sadest piece of news I’ve heard of! A wonderful plane scrapped for pseudo profitability reasons! The restart of the program with new engines would really delight me.

  3. I think if It would have 3 or 2 engines (per example The ultrafan) ist would be more economic to fly for Airlines, i would be very Happy (sorry for my bad English)

  4. I hope Airbus doesn’t do what Boeing did with the 757 and destroy all the old tooling. I’m surprised they didn’t pursue the cargo version. I know there are some weight issues, where the maximum cargo weight would actually be lower than a 747-8, but I would think that Airbus should be able to overcome that. At least save the ones already built by developing a conversion. I’m sure a party like FedEx would even assist with the development. FedEx has done aircraft development on their own. They created hush kits for 727s. They developed high-bypass engine retrofits for DC-8s. Should be doable, especially for how cheap the used aircraft are becoming. The passenger version is a bit harder to predict. It appears that one of the issues with the passenger A380 is that it is almost like operating two aircraft. It needs two jet bridges, and twice the man power. It takes up large amounts of gate area. I think airlines are to the point that they would rather just split those resources up and fly two A350s or 787s.

  5. The A380 cargo variant would reach it’s maximum takeoff weight long before being “cubed out” or fully filled thus making it uneconomical and unviable. The 747 is the opposite, it gets “cubed out” with lots of leftover capacity for fuel for the journey. And don’t think that they can just turn on their assembly line again. Once shut down it would be a logistical nightmare to restart the line. It could be done I’m sure; Lockheed reopened the C-5 line once and the Ukrainians reopened the AN-124 line but don’t forget about the special barges and trucks that are integral for A380 production. Sorry but this bird is cooked!

  6. The A380 will never be built again. Arguably, it should never have been built in the first place. The plane was designed to compete with the past. The wing is complete wrong-sized. The cargo hold is too small. The business case was never properly justified even in 2000 when the A380 was launched, and it has only become weaker over time. Twin-engine jets with better economics have taken over.

  7. One of the reasons for the (unfortunate) demise of the A380 is its lack of underfloor cargo space: this is always going to be a problem for a short, stubby, fully double-deck plane with a large wing box — after all, the more passengers you carry, the more baggage you have to carry also, and the less room that remains for cargo. In that respect, the A380 is more suited to LCCs, who aren’t interested in cargo because it slows down turnaround. Airbus repeatedly said that they felt that airlines should have put in more revenue-generating seats and fewer “gimmiks” like bars, showers, etc.

    As regards a full cargo version: the only cargo that would work would be high-volume, high-value, low-weight, so that the plane doesn’t “cube out”. The only cargo that I can think of in that category is fresh flowers — for which there is a limited cargo market. KLM / Martinair transport a few 747s full of roses from Africa to Amsterdam every day…but I don’t think they’d be tempted to switch to A380s for that job.

    Apart from LCCs, I don’t think there are (m)any airlines that can fill one of these birds: even the 747 and 777 are now considered too big (the 747-8 flopped, and the 777X is not selling well), and the A350-1000 is probably also considered to be a bit on the large size (also not selling well). No matter how many / what type of engines a future A380 re-hash would have, it won’t make money if it can’t be filled.

    1. When you look at Air France and see that they are looking at replacing their A380s with either A350-900s, 787-8s, or A330neos, (A350-1000 and 777x are not mentioned) the trend toward smaller planes looks to firmly set. Haven’t seen an A350-1000 for ages, and most of the recent 777 sales are for freighters.

  8. I’am sure to continue enjoying the A380 for as long I can jump on one, on one of my Europe or Australia trips. As a passenger, it is a delight with no match as fas as comfort and safety record is concerned.

  9. The Airbus A380 is the best aircraft in the world, certainly for passengers, there is no peer. I regularly reroute form Sydney to Melbourne to catch the Qanats A380 service to Singapore rather than fly direct from Sydney on an A330. I have not flown on a Boeing 787 as yet, so don’t know how it stacks up against that aircraft, but it creams the Boeing 747. Once they start replacing the A380 with smaller craft, there will be reduced capacity on that route.

  10. No way will they ever start production again. They would have to go to composites, and stream line the design to make it cost effective (and that means a new aircraft). Even if you go to bio fuels, other planes would make the same move, and hence, no great gain. It will join the Concorde as a nice novelty. I am just wondering how long before there are none flying at all. Seems like you should be able to find a ride on one for the next 15 years or so.

  11. I fly to Bangkok every six weeks or so throughout the year and have done so for the last two years.
    The A380 is head and shoulders above any other aircraft currently flying.
    I don’t want to fly in any other aircraft. Fortunately before it’s demise I will have ended my flying days.

  12. I doubt you’ll ever see the A380 built again until you see the 747 back in the skies. The 747 will always be the Queen of The Skies and would probably still be a favorite with passengers and the airlines if the ill-conceived A380 had not been developed. I think Airbus just couldn’t stand being number 2 and felt they needed this behemoth to outdo the 747.

  13. Of course the first version of any product will be less fuel efficient. To stop with just one version is just foolishness. Engines could be replaced with more fuel efficient ones, winglets could be added.

    A380 does not have incidents costing human lives that “highly successful” planes like 737 Max. It will be good for the company to do R & D to upgrade the plane. Just stopping as it is just is a waste of that entire efforts.

    Cruise planes could be a new market like cruise ships and could be cheaper.

    They should develop a cargo version of A380 at all cost.

    Many people travel through Emirates JUST BECAUSE OF A380, if A380 will not order, there will someone in future.

    Production can be reduced but stopping it altogether is just foolishness.

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