The largest passenger airliner in the world will be taken off production lines for good in 2021, Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus, announced. It would be more than fair to say that it was also the most beloved and popular aircraft among passengers. The iconic superjumbo is run on four engines and is – or, rather, was – a genuine engineering masterpiece.
The laws of economics do not share the same feelings, though. Not only A380 is the largest plane, it is also the most expensive one to maintain. This wonderful beast could accommodate hundreds of passengers, ranging from 550 to 800 depending on the specific configuration. But what turned out to be a marketing success did not translate into equally impressive revenue figures. Experts say that selling 800 seats is a difficult task, and not the one airlines are very keen to undertake. To compare, a 200-passenger Boeing sells out much more quickly. The more empty seats on a flight, the more revenues for airlines are slipping through the cracks. This is why airlines can offer insane discounts sometimes – anything is better than zero.
The fatal blow to A380 turned out to be Emirates’ decision to order just 14 planes instead of the planned 53. Emirates is Airbus’s largest customer, and it will now shift its focus to ordering 70 smaller planes.
So what was the point of manufacturing such large aircraft if it was not able to pay off? Several decades ago projects like A380 were considered to be very lucrative. Airports infrastructure was located exclusively in the vicinity of the major cities. It also made sense for airlines to pack as many people on the flight as possible. Further expansion of the airport infrastructure and budget travel has changed the aviation industry. Lighter, smaller and less expensive aircraft, running on two engines rather than four, became the golden standard of the new age. The practical consequences of replacing A380 with lighter planes will actually benefit passengers in some ways as this would mean the increased frequency of flights.
For Airbus, the largest aircraft manufacturer in Europe, this is the major overhaul of its business processes. However, the company has other projects in the works that are more in line with the demands of the modern aviation industry. The A380 airplane has been servicing passengers for 12 years.
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