While aircraft manufacturers are always inserting the phrase “bestselling aircraft” into the marketing language for their most popular jets, they would never want to draw attention to their “worst sellers.” We recently took a look at the Boeing jets that weren’t exactly big hits with airline customers – let’s now take a look at the planes that Airbus had trouble selling.
The baby bus
Let’s first start small and take a look at the Airbus A318 – affectionately known as the “baby bus.” At a length of just 31.4 meters, or 103 feet, the A318 is the smallest member of the single-aisle A320 family.
The A318 racked up a paltry 80 orders, flying with airlines such as Air France, British Airways, and Romania’s Tarom. In contrast, the A319ceo had accumulated orders for nearly 1500 jets, and the A320ceo, over 4700.
Beyond its 10% range boost above the A320, the A318s big selling feature was its exceptional commonality with other A320 family jets (A319, A320, and A321). This would allow for much more streamlined crew training and maintenance.
It’s downfall largely came from its classification. Although the planemaker hoped to make the A318 a regional jet alternative, regulations in both the US and Europe placed it in the same class as larger aircraft. Thus, its cost-to-passenger ratio suffered when calculating landing fees and other weight-related charges.
The single-deck quadjet
Designed throughout the 1970s and 80s, the A340 was Airbus’ attempt at a high-capacity, long-range aircraft suited for trans-oceanic operations. Its four-engine design was meant to bypass ETOPS regulations of the time.
Unfortunately, having four engines would detract from its popularity as ETOPS restrictions were eventually adjusted and allowed for longer-distance flights with two-engined aircraft. Suddenly, aircraft like the Boeing 767, and eventually the 777 would become much more attractive options, requiring less maintenance while burning less fuel.
Airbus had a total of 375 A340 family deliveries. Its worst-seller was the A340-200 with just 28 orders, followed closely by the -500 with 32 orders. In contrast, the twin-engine model developed parallel to the A340, the A330ceo, had racked up orders for nearly 1500 jets. This popularity allowed Airbus to continue the program as the A330neo.
Then, of course, there’s the superjumbo we’re all familiar with – the Airbus A380. We’ve perhaps covered the unpopularity of this jet more than we’d like to. This four-engine, double-decker behemoth only managed to acquire orders for 251 aircraft, having had several cancelations along the way. A single operator, Emirates, accounts for nearly half of all orders.
Its lack of popularity has largely been seen as bad timing – entering service at a time when point-to-point travel was becoming more popular, as opposed to the hub-and-spoke network model.
Other well-documented drawbacks include:
- Size category and its limited access to airports
- High operating costs (fuel and maintenance)
- A more difficult-to-fill aircraft due to its size
As time moves forward, plane makers like Boeing and Airbus have almost certainly been taking note of these costly failures, working towards designing the right aircraft for airline customers, which will be sure to sell.
Does our list of Airbus’ worst-selling aircraft surprise you? Let us know in the comments.