Airbus to end production of superjumbo

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has said it will stop making its A380 "superjumbo", the world's largest passenger aircraft

he firm said an increase in production of its A320 model would offer “a significant number of internal mobility opportunities”
he firm said an increase in production of its A320 model would offer “a significant number of internal mobility opportunities”

Airbus has announced it will end production of its flagship A380 superjumbo passenger jet.

The firm said it had made the “painful” decision after Emirates, the biggest user of the planes, slashed its A380 orders by around a quarter.

Due to the reduction and a lack of order backlog with other airlines, Airbus said it would end deliveries of the record-breaking plane in 2021, 14 years after it first entered commercial service.

Airbus said it would “start discussions with its social partners in the next few weeks regarding the 3,000 to 3,500 positions potentially impacted over the next three years”.

The firm said an increase in production of its A320 model would offer “a significant number of internal mobility opportunities”.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said, “The A380 is not only an outstanding engineering and industrial achievement. Passengers all over the world love to fly on this great aircraft. Hence today’s announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide.

“But keep in mind that A380s will still roam the skies for many years to come and Airbus will, of course, continue to fully support the A380 operators.”

Airbus said Emirates had chosen to reduce its order of A380s from 162 to 123 aircraft following a “review of its operations and in light of developments in aircraft and engine technologies”. Meanwhile, the UAE carrier is buying more of the smaller A330-900 and A350-900 aircraft, purchasing 40 and 30 respectively.

“As a result of this decision 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. “This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021. The consequences of this decision are largely embedded in our 2018 full year results.”

The Emirates order for the A330-900 and A350-900 is worth £16.6 billion.

Still, Airbus announced on Thursday a 29% jump in overall profits for 2018, and analysts said global demand was high enough for Airbus to weather the loss of its superjumbo. The planemaker reported a net profit of €3.1 billion, up from €2.4 billion in 2017.

Airbus said it forecasts similar profits in 2019, in line with growth in the world economy and air traffic.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of Emirates, said, “While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the program could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation. For us, the A380 is a wonderful aircraft loved by our customers and our crew. It is a differentiator for Emirates. We have shown how people can truly fly better on the A380.”

The A380 has been a favourite of Emirates passengers, especially those in business and first class, which encompassed the entire upper deck of the aeroplane and was complete with a bar in the back.

Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionise air travel as more people take to the skies. Instead, airlines have been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it. The double-decker planes started flying in 2008 and seated more than 500 passengers.

The A380 had troubles from the start, including tensions between the French and German management of Airbus, and protracted production delays and cost overruns. Those prompted a company restructuring that cost thousands of jobs.

Industry experts initially expected A380s to outlast the 747, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. When it started taking on passengers in 2008, the A380 was hailed for its roominess, large windows, high ceilings and quieter engines. Some carriers put in showers, lounges, duty-free shops and bars on both decks.

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