Business

End of era: Airbus delivers last A380 superjumbo

December 16, 2021

By Tim Hepher and Fabian Bimmer

PARIS/HAMBURG (Reuters) -Airbus delivered its last A380 superjumbo on Thursday, to Dubai’s Emirates, marking the end of a 14-year journey that gave Europe an instantly recognized icon. globally but did not reach the commercial visibility of the designers.

Production of the world’s largest plane – with a capacity of 500 people on two decks plus perks like first-class showers – has ended with just 250 more delivered to airlines compared with the A number of 1,000 or more has ever been predicted.

Airbus, an aircraft consortium assembled from separate units in the UK, France, Germany and Spain to build their brainchild the super jet to solve the bottleneck , pulled the plug in 2019 after airlines adopted smaller, leaner models of the plane.

The 123rd superjumbo delivered to Emirates, by far its largest customer, departed Hamburg in an overcast sunset before making a round of goodbye to the port city and heading to the Bay Area.

Thursday’s deliveries were intentionally kept low, partly because of COVID restrictions and also because these days Airbus is focusing PR on the environmental benefits of smaller jets.

That is in stark contrast to the spectacular light show that revealed a massive fortune to European leaders in 2005.

Emirates still believes in superjumbo’s ability to attract passengers. Although no more A380s will be built, it will continue to fly them for many years. Many airlines disagreed and expelled the A380 during the pandemic.

Airlines President Tim Clark refused to bow to skeptics, who say the days of spacious four-engine jets like the A380 are numbered, as an airline seat becomes a thing. goods like anything else.

“I don’t share that view at all… And I still believe there is a place for the A380,” Clark recently told reporters.

“Technologists and accountants say it’s not fit for purpose… That’s not right for our traveling public. They absolutely loved that plane,” he said.

SAY BATH

The collapse of the A380 left one of the largest buildings in the world, the 122,500 square meter assembly plant in Toulouse, abandoned.

Airbus plans to use some of that to build some of the narrow-body models as the bread and butter are dominating sales, like the deal with Qantas announced earlier on Thursday.

But in Hamburg, some of the A380’s most striking features evolved.

Clark recalls how he met with Airbus developers in northern Germany to convince Airbus executives in France to pay for the engineering needed to make the in-flight shower a reality.

“There’s a lot of arm-crossing and my friends in France are a little bit cautious,” Clark said.

“I had to sit down with friends in the Hamburg development unit about building the showers, and then ask the Toulouse management to see how it could be done, and so they did buy into.”

That innovation made headlines but didn’t translate into the sales needed to keep the A380 running.

The plane was designed in the 1990s when travel demand was soaring and China offered seemingly unlimited potential.

By the time of its first delivery in 2007, the plane was more than two years behind. And when Emirates got its first A380 a year later, the emerging financial crisis forced analysts to cut their forecasts for the biggest jets.

Meanwhile, Boeing has received orders for a revolutionary new 787 Dreamliner followed by the Airbus A350.

“Appetite and enthusiasm have waned. We did not share that view; Clark said on the sidelines of a meeting of airlines.

“We have what I think is one of the most beautiful planes ever flown.”

(Reporting by Tim Hepher Editing by Mark Potter and Alison Williams)

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Bobby Allyn

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