Airbus scraps A380 superjumbos; 3,500 European jobs at stake

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Ground crew are seen near the engine of a Singapore Airlines' Airbus A380 superjumbo at Singapore's Changi airport November 11, 2010. Singapore Airlines said on Thursday it was in full compliance with safety directives from the European Union on the Rolls Royce engine used on Airbus A380s and does not plan flight cancellations. REUTERS/

Airbus said on Thursday it's scrapping its ambitious A380 superjumbo passenger jet in view of dwindling orders. The last Airbus A380 double-decker aircraft will be delivered in 2021, the European aircraft maker said. The company also said it will talk with labour unions over the nearly 3,500 jobs that would be impacted.

We have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years

Terming the decision a painful one, outgoing Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said efforts to secure enough orders had failed. "We have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years," Enders said, the Guardian reported.

The last of the superjumbos will be delivered to UAE's Emirates Airlines. The drastic decision came after Emirates, the biggest A380 buyer in the world, cut down an outstanding order for 53 planes to only 14. Emirates said the supersized aircraft will remain in its services well into the 2030s. The airline also said it was ordering as many as 70 A330 and A350 aircraft from Airbus. Emirates too said the Airbus decision was a sad one.

A380 sales hit a trough after airlines globally gravitated towards smaller and nimbler aircraft in the aftermath of the global recession of the last decade and the rise in fuel prices. When the first Airbus A380 flew out from Toulouse, France, in 2007, it was touted as a fierce competitor to the legendary Boeing 747 jumbo. While the double-decker remained popular among the flyers, global airlines increasingly moved away from it, preferring to add smaller aircraft to their fleet.

Emirates is not the only airline that cancelled outstanding orders for the superjumbo. While Australia's Qantas Airways cancelled an outstanding order last week, Air France had also reduced orders in the past. Significantly, none of the American airlines are using the Airbus A380. For that matter, Boeing has also been seeing reduced interest from airlines for it 747 jumbo, which has been around for the last 50 years.

Europe's Pride

While Airbus symbolises Europe's collaborative spirit that thrived in the post-war decades, the making of the A380 superjumbo was spread out across the continent. While its wings were manufactured in the UK, components such as fuselage tubes were ferried on barges and trucks from Germany and Britain to Toulouse, which is the main manufacturing hub. The final painting and embellishing were done in Hamburg, Germany.

The rapid rise in the number of flyers at the turn of the century made Airbus think that airport congestion would become acute in the coming years, prompting airlines to go for larger aircraft that would carry more people but use up less space at airports. Airbus A380 can carry as many as 800 passengers depending on how the interior is laid out, but most airlines actually carried only about 500 people on an average.

According to Bloomberg, as many as 232 Airbus A380s are in service as of 31 December 2018. As many as 14 airline companies are using the superjumbos. They are Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Air France, Lufthansa, Korean Air, China Southern Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, British Airways, Asiana Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Hi Fly first.