It is just over ten years since the Airbus A380 entered service with Singapore Airlines. A lot has changed since then and it appears the market for aircraft with four engines is at an end.
New large twin engine aircraft such as the Airbus A350, Boeing 787 Dreamliner are far more efficient which means airlines prefer them. Does this mean the end for the Airbus A380?
Airbus A380 Orders
Checking out the order book shows that there are a decent number of aircraft still on order. According to the list, there are 115 on order at this time which is quite healthy for a large and expensive aeroplane.
Looking into the details presents a bleak picture. Six Airbus A380s are on order from Virgin Atlantic which have had them on order for many years. The chances of one ever entering service with the small British international airline are slim.
Australia’s Qantas has 12 aircraft in service and another eight on order. It is highly unlikely that Qantas will take these, with their CEO Alan Joyce stating, “I think it would take a very drunken night for me to order that” when asked about the possibility of ordering any proposed upgraded version of the A380.
Air Accord (who?) has ordered three and the leasing company Amadeo has 20 on order with none delivered. They were speaking about creating their own airline in order to use the jets they have on order, so that tells you how much demand there is for a new A380!
What About The Other Orders?
Emirates is the main operator of the Airbus A380, with 101 aircraft in service out of a total order for 142 which means there are 41 remaining to be delivered. It was recently announced that they are planning to purchase another 20 on top of that but nothing is firm at this point.
The press is reporting that British Airways are in the market for another six aircraft so there may be something coming from them later this year. BA have a lot of Boeing 747s to replace in the next 6 years as they remove the Jumbo from their fleet.
Apart from this, things are very quiet. Malaysia Airlines tried to offload their fleet of six, found no buyers so they decided to set up an airline to do Hajj charters to take the aircraft. Whether this is going to happen remains to be seen.
Singapore Airlines returned the first five aircraft they ordered to the lessors and ordered five new ones from Airbus. The returned jets are not in service and are waiting in vain for new homes. The engines have been leased by Rolls-Royce for use on other A380s.
Is It The End For The Airbus A380?
Emirates holds a large portion of the remaining order book and several airlines and lessors who don’t seem to want to take the aircraft hold the rest. The future does not look rosy, to the point Airbus were making plans to reduce production to just 6 per year with a view to stopping at some point.
On the other hand, passengers love flying the Airbus A380. It is quiet inside, very stable in flight and you arrive at your destination feeling fresher than when using other types such as the much older Boeing 747.
Airport congestion is getting worse and authorities in some countries are taking an inordinate amount of time to decide on how to expand capacity – I’m looking at you, United Kingdom. This may mean there will be demand in the next decade for the aircraft as airports become more constrained.
Without a second hand market, nobody wants to buy a new one. When you’re finished with it there is no-one to sell it on to in order to recoup some of your money. The sheer size of the jet makes it a hard sell. Passengers appear to overwhelmingly have a preference for more flights on smaller aircraft. Airlines prefer this as well as smaller means easier to fill.
Looking at the situation, I would say that Airbus will stop producing the A380 in the middle of the 2020s. If there is a refresh, which is unlikely, it could last longer.
The shaky order book coupled with industry sentiment means it is probably going to go that way. Sales of the competing Boeing 747-8i have already dried up completely.
What do you think? Is the A380 going to bow out soon or will it go on for decades to come? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by lasta29, Thai image by Kiefer from Frankfurt, both via Wikimedia Commons.
All other images by Aero Icarus from Zurich, Switzerland via Wikimedia Commons.