Jobs at risk as Airbus announces end of A380 superjumbo production

Daniel Fowler
February 14, 2019

Airbus is to stop production of the A380 in 2021, following Emirates' decision to reduce its outstanding orders for the superjumbo.

The company said it would deliver between 880 and 890 new commercial planes this year, adding that it was allocating €436 million to the A400M military transport programme.

Dubai did in fact turn into the A380's major sponsor, with Emirates ordering a total of more than 160 units, far in excess of any other airline.

Nevertheless, Airbus said it made £2.7bn in overall net profits - a jump of 29% on the previous year.

"Following a review of its operations, and in light of developments in aircraft and engine technologies, Emirates is reducing its A380 order book from 162 to 123 aircraft", Airbus said in a statement.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said that "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". The Gulf carrier will pare down its current A380 order to 14 from 53, Airbus said in a statement on Thursday.

But from early on, the world's largest commercial passenger plane had a hard time, both technically and commercially.

Enders, the Airbus CEO said: "Today's announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide".

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The A380 was first launched 14 years ago as a challenger to fierce rival Boeing's 747 jumbo jet but its popularity has struggled to take off.

The decision, announced on Thursday, could affect up to 3,500 jobs around the world, with hundreds in the UK. The company was forced to restructure, costing thousands of jobs.

"However, the ongoing A320 ramp-up and the new widebody order from Emirates Airline will offer a significant number of internal mobility opportunities", Airbus said.

Airbus makes wings for the A380 in the United Kingdom - employing 6,000 staff at Broughton and 3,000 at Filton.

But in the end, it wasn't passenger support, but the lack thereof from airlines that hastened the A380's demise. Singapore Airlines had received the first A380 in October 2007 and the last one is now slated to be delivered in 2021 to Emirates.

While the iconic passenger airliner might be admired by aviation enthusiasts, it never gained much popularity with customers (Emirates aside).

Confirming a shake-up first reported by Reuters, it said Emirates - the largest A380 customer - had chose to reduce its orders for the iconic superjumbo and order a total of 70 of the smaller A350 and A330neo models.

Airbus will complete the remaining orders, then the factories and their workers will either be reassigned to other programs or let go. Airbus confidently predicted it would make about 1,500 of the giant planes. But ironically it was also Emirates that contributed to the A380's decline and fall. Sales slowed. At the same time, engine makers who had promised Airbus a decade of unbeatable efficiencies with their new superjumbo engines were fine-tuning even more efficient designs for the next generation of dual-engined planes, competing with the A380.

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