Airbus is giving up on the A380

Airbus is ending the A380 program, pulling the plug on its iconic superjumbo jet that once promised to revolutionize commercial air travel but failed to deliver on outsized expectations.

The European plane maker said Thursday that it will stop delivering A380s in 2021 after its key customer, Dubai-based airline Emirates, slashed its orders for the huge jetliner.

We have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders said in a company statement. The decision could hit as many as 3,500 jobs at the manufacturer over the next three years.

The A380, the world’s largest airliner, first took to the skies 14 years ago. But Airbus’ giant bet that airlines would need lots of extra-big planes to fly passengers between major airport hubs didn’t pay off as the company had hoped.

The company has delivered 234 of the superjumbos to date, less than a quarter of the 1,200 it predicted it would sell when it first introduced the double-decker aircraft. Its plans were undermined by airlines shifting their interest to lighter, more fuel efficient passenger jets that have reduced the need to ferry passengers between the big hubs.

“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,” Enders said. “But keep in mind that A380s will still roam the skies for many years to come and Airbus will of course continue to fully support the A380 operators.”

Emirates had kept the A380 program on life support early last year by placing a big order for the aircraft. But this week, it followed other airlines like Qantas (QABSY) of Australia in canceling a big chunk of its orders. Emirates is redirecting its money into buying 70 smaller passenger jets from Airbus, a mix of the manufacturer’s newest A330 and A350 models.

“While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the program could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation,” Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a company statement. “The A380 will remain a pillar of our fleet well into the 2030s.”

Airbus said it will begin discussions with employee representatives in the coming weeks over the 3,000 to 3,500 jobs that are likely to be affected by the end of A380 production. It added that the expanding A320 program and the big new order from Emirates “will offer a significant number of internal mobility opportunities.”

Source: CNN