The end of an era is upon us, and boy has it been a ride.
After a dozen years in service, the Airbus A380, nicknamed “Superjumbo”, is at the end of the line, with its production to cease in 2021.
The decision was made after the double-decker jet’s biggest customer, Emirates, curtailed their existing order of 53 A380s to just 14 – forcing Airbus to pull the plug on the manufacturing of the celebrated aircraft, whose programme was on life support at that point.
This follows a drying market for very large aircrafts – such as the A380 and its competitor the Boeing 747, nicknamed “Jumbo Jet”, both of which far exceed the US Federal Aviation Administration’s defining weight for a large aircraft of 5,700kg – as a shift in airline preferences and simultaneous technological advancements make for an increased demand for smaller, more efficient planes that fly similar ranges to the Airbus A380.
For instance, the mammoth A380 has a maximum takeoff weight of 560,000kg and a range of 14,800km, while the smaller Airbus 350-900 and Boeing 787-8 have significantly lesser weights of 268,000kg and 227,930kg, with ranges of 15,000km and 13,620km respectively.
As the aviation market moves toward the newer and more economical point-to-point airliners, there seems to be little space left in the skies for the “Superjumbo” and her outdated hub-and-spoke model. In a point-to-point system, the aeroplane simply travels from node to node directly, without passing through a central hub, whereas in a hub-and-spoke model, much like the hub and spokes of a wheel, all routes pass through the hub before moving to another node.
Said Airbus’ outgoing chief executive officer Tom Enders, in a live interview with CNBC: “If you have a product, which, despite all the efforts you put into it, you can’t sell anymore, or you can sell only below production cost, then you have to stop that product.”
“This is the decision – a painful decision – that we had to take.”
But as one door closes, another opens. With a burgeoning A320 programme, coupled with new large order from Emirates for the newer A330 and A350 models, the some 3500 jobs affected by the A380 shutdown will be provided with “a significant number of internal mobility opportunities”.
Fortunately, the demise of the A380 merely means a stoppage in production of the majestic craft. Passengers and aviation diehards alike will still see and be able to fly the existing fleet potentially for decades to come before retirement, giving everyone a chance to catch and experience true luxury in the skies.
Featured image: Emirates