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Economy

End of the runway for Airbus A380 as Emirates cuts order

media An Airbus A380 aircraft takes off in Colomiers near Toulouse, France, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

Airbus is to stop production of its A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, after the biggest customer for the aircraft, Emirates, reduced its order from 162 to 123 planes.

The final plane will be delivered in 2021, just 16 years after the A380’s maiden flight in 2005.

The aircraft can carry up to 544 passengers, who appreciate its relative comfort and spaciousness.

Strategic miscalculation

When the A380 was designed, Airbus predicted a future in which large planes would transport greater numbers of passengers between major airport hubs and that those passengers would then fly on in smaller planes to their more regional destinations.

“At the time it looked like a good strategy,” says aviation expert Pierre Duval of the Aeroclub de France, “more passengers on one plane meant less fuel was used per passenger.” The plane was marketed as being environmentally-friendly.

But it didn’t pan out that way.

In reality it was hard for airlines to fill the planes.

Customers wanted a choice of flight times per day and they wanted to fly directly to their destinations where possible.

According to Pierre Duval, the trend now is for airlines to buy many small aircraft with two engines instead of four, for greater fuel efficiency.

The A380 proved a good option though for Emirates, when it was a newish airline, keen to expand. Indeed Emirates’ entire growth strategy was based around the aircraft and the airline operates 109 of the 232 A380s in service around the world.

But that meant that when Emirates cut its order it was bad news for the A380.

3500 jobs at stake

With the end of A380 production, up to 3500 jobs are at stake but many employees will be redeployed elsewhere in the company.

Production of its star A320 is to be increased to 60 per month by the end of March with the aim of reaching 63 per month by 2021.

And the company reported strong financial results for 2018, exceding analysts’ expectations.

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