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Airbus: Last A380 off the production line

Airbus: Last A380 off the production line

Julie Kitcher, EVP Communications & Corporate Affairs of Airbus tweeted the rollout of the last Airbus A380 in Toulouse, France yesterday 24 September 2020.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury attended a special employee event to mark the occasion.

This is the 272nd A380 produced since manufacture commenced in 2005.

Airbus still has 9 deliveries of A380’s to make. 8 are for Emirates giving them a total of 122, and one for ANA (All Nippon Airways) that will bring their total to 3. When any of these will actually fly given COVID-19 and a lack of demand for these whales is anyones guess.

Passengers love the A380, but airlines not so much

Travellers love these aircraft as it provides one of the quietest and most comfortable rides in the sky. Unfortunately, they came out just before carbon fibre construction and other innovations had been fully implemented in the aircraft industry, so they are not as efficient to run as later aircraft like the A250 and B787’s.

Partly ahead of their time, and partly using now outdated technology, they never proved their worth with most airlines, the exception being Emirates. Unless the planes are near full, the economics of these four-engined behemoths don’t quite work for most airlines.

With the added complication ‘point to point’ traffic winning over the ‘hub and spoke’ model of air travel, the knives were out for the future production of this aircraft type.

We knew this day was coming

Officially, we were told that A380 production would end in early 2019. Emirates was the last airline standing – so to speak, and it realised that as the one airline that still wanted the plane, it couldn’t by itself ‘save’ the production line.

How long will the A380 keep flying?

Good question. Notionally, another decade or two, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and dramatically reduced demand for international flying, the end may come sooner than that. Qantas has all it’s A380’s in storage. Air France has retired its whole fleet of the plane. Lufthansa is talking about retiring their whole fleet as well, unless demand recovers unexpectedly.

Pre-pandemic, Emirates committed to keep flying their A380’s beyond 2030, which would put the aircraft’s life at around the 30-year mark. All bets are off with COVID.

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I love the A380 – even more than the B747. I have a Qantas model version on my desk.

Pre-pandemic there was the dim possibility that demand would continue to outstrip airport slots, and the A380 might come into its own. COVID-19 has removed that possibility.

Airbus abandoned plans to update the A380’s technology with models such as an A380neo, the A380plus, the A380 stretch and even a freighter version. These new models would have had features like a 13% reduction in fuel consumption, increased maintenance cycles and more seats, but there just wasn’t the demand to warrant the development costs. Plans were largely abandoned by 2015, and definitely by 2017.

They will continue to be my favourite aircraft – when they get back in the air – when we get back in the air.

I will definitely be in the market for one of their galley trolleys when they retire.

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