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Surprise! Qantas finally cancels A380 order. Could be ‘end of the line’ for A380 production

Surprise! Qantas finally cancels A380 order. Could be ‘end of the line’ for A380 production

The A380 is the most popular aircraft in the sky with passengers, but not the favourite aircraft of airlines.

For passengers, it provides spacious accommodation over two decks and depending on which airline – includes bars, showers, snack bars, and spacious toilets.

For airlines, it’s a huge bus to fill (around 484 seats on Qantas), and the economics are not that great even when full. Emirates seems to have cracked the model by restricting itself to two aircraft types. Mind you every time I have been on an Emirates A380, it seems about two thirds full.

A380 is passengers’ favourite aircraft. The A380 is the only aircraft to offer more than 500 seats with high profitability. The A380 has the lowest cost per seat of any competing wide-body aircraft.

Airbus ‘Facts & Figures‘ January 2019

Not News?

Arguably this is old news since Qantas CEO Alan Joyce indicated they would not be taking delivery of the order back in 2016.

Sunrise Project

So why wait until now to actually cancel? Well, there is usually a penalty for cancellation of an aircraft order, unless you can offset it with another order. In this Airbus/Qantas case, maybe with a modified A350 order to be used in the proposed Sunrise Project’s routes. After all, they have promised to pick the plane type they will use this year. Maybe this is a way to provide some clear space for the Sunrise Project aircraft type announcement, without muddying the waters with an order cancellation. Does this mean the Boeing 777X is out of the mix?

a plane flying in the sky

A380 – end of the line?

On the other hand, maybe Airbus is just trying to clean out its order book, so it can finally put production of the A380 on hold, or even close the production line.

Emirates is reportedly thinking of changing some of its last order of A380’s to other models, and an order for 10 of the aircraft by Hong Kong Airlines was removed from the Airbus order and delivery tables in December 2018.

The A380 was developed when passenger numbers were expanding, and aircraft slots were becoming as rare as hens teeth at major hub airports. So the argument for the plane was to increase the number of passengers that could be transported per flight, without requiring extra airport slots. Airports embraced the plan by modifying air-bridges and and airport traffic plans to accommodate the double decker with its enormous 80 metre wingspan.

With airlines expanding their point-to-point routes, rather than the traditional hub-and-spoke model, could the cancellation of these 8 A380’s by Qantas (they already have 12) be the death knell for the model?

C’est la vie

I know amongst aircraft nerds it’s the 747 ‘Queen of the Skies’ that represents the true elegance of aircraft design – but for me, it’s the impossible whale shape of the A380. It so looks like it shouldn’t fly, and yet it does, and in fact it is the plane that Juan Trippe of Pan Am asked Boeing to build way back in the 1960’s.

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