Airbus to cease production of A380 superjumbo by 2021

Airbus is to cease production of the A380 once final deliveries are made to Emirates, which has reduced its order book from 162 to 123 superjumbos.

A380
Emirates Airbus A380 (Pic: Airbus)

The airline, which today announced a $21.4bn heads-of-agreement with Airbus for 40 A330-900 and 30 A350-900 aircraft, will take delivery of 14 A380s over the next two years and will operate the aircraft into the 2030s.

“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. This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021,” said Airbus CEO Tom Enders. “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.”

Airbus said it will soon start discussions regarding the 3,000 to 3,500 positions potentially impacted by today’s announcement, which includes staff at Broughton, North Wales who assemble wings for Airbus commercial aircraft. The company added ‘the ongoing A320 ramp-up and the new widebody order from Emirates Airline will offer a significant number of internal mobility opportunities’.

Today’s announcement came as Airbus revealed its full year results, which show an increase in consolidated revenues to €63.7bn, which were driven largely by deliveries of commercial aircraft.

“We delivered on our commitments with record profitability thanks to a strong operational performance, particularly in Q4,” Enders said. “With an order backlog of around 7,600 aircraft, we intend to ramp-up aircraft production even further.”

As of December 2018, Airbus had received 321 net orders and had delivered 234 A380s, which was first flown commercially in 2007 by Singapore Airlines. In January 2018, Emirates placed a $16bn order that was predicted to sustain the programme for around 10 years.

“As much as we regret the [Emirates’] position, selecting the A330neo and A350 for its future growth is a great endorsement of our very competitive widebody aircraft family,” said Guillaume Faury, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft and future Airbus CEO.

Today’s announcement has not surprised commentators who’ve doubted the viability of the A380 in relation to competing long-haul aircraft.

“The A380 is an iconic aircraft and close to the hearts of many in the industry for its size, scale and engineering,” said Paul Adams, head of aerospace and defence at management consultancy,  Vendigital. “However, in practice, flying such a large aircraft with four engines was no longer economically viable, requiring airlines to ensure it was consistently full of passengers, which was often unrealistic. While the Emirates order in 2017 kept things going, its production has therefore been scaled back over a number of years and a shutdown has seemed inevitable for some time.

“While the OEM originally sold the programme to suppliers on the basis of 1,500 aircraft, they have only made around 250. As such, this news will come as a major disappointment to many suppliers who have invested in fixtures, tooling and plants. However, while this development will undoubtedly have supply chain impacts, growth in other programmes, such as A320 should allow the OEM to mitigate them whilst increasing profitability across the business.”

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