Death of the superjumbo jet: Why Airbus is killing the A380

Airbus A380

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

In a statement, the company said it would make its last deliveries of the aircraft in 2021.

The costly aircraft has struggled to compete with more efficient, smaller models.

"In short, we believe Airbus traveled a long way in full-year 2018 and heads into 2019 in good shape insofar as the core business is concerned", he said in a research note.

Airbus is killing off the A380 double-decker superjumbo jet in what CEO Tom Enders is calling a "painful" decision.

The company said it had "no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production". "As a outcome of this decision and given the lack of order backlog with other airlines, deliveries of the A380 will cease in 2021", the manufacturer announces in a statement. Air traffic is growing at a near-record pace but this has mainly generated demand for twin-engined jets nimble enough to fly directly to where people want to travel, rather than bulky four-engined jets forcing passengers to change at hub airports. That agreement will take Emirates' total A380 order book to 123 units down from an original 162 jets.

What does it mean for jobs?

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Airbus said it will start discussions with its social partners in the next few weeks regarding the 3,000 to 3,500 positions potentially impacted over the next three years which will include workers at Airbus Broughton where the wings are made. The company was forced to restructure, costing thousands of jobs.

As part of the restructuring, Emirates placed a new order for 40 A330-900neo jets and 30 A350-900 aircraft, partially restoring a purchase of A350 aircraft which it cancelled in 2014.

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Emirates, which had built its global brand around the A380 and Boeing 777 and which also has 100 of the Airbus superjumbos in its fleet, said it was disappointed by the closure.

Why is A380 production ending?

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However, the market started to change near the turn of the decade when airlines realized they could buy planes that could fly just as far, but easier to fill up with passengers (and cheaper to fill with fuel).

Emirates' order of the A330neos and A350s and reducing its original order of A380, reduces "its exposure to the giant jet and arguably introduced more fleet flexibility", said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst of StrategicAero Research.

Airbus will complete the remaining orders, then the factories and their workers will either be reassigned to other programs or let go.

"The ongoing A320 ramp-up and the new widebody order from Emirates Airline will offer a significant number of internal mobility opportunities", the European manufacturer said in a statement.

The timing of any final announcement may be driven by the outcome of those talks, but Airbus will be under pressure to provide some clarity on its plans in time for Thursday's update, following mounting speculation over the plane's future.

The decision to scrap production is the last major step by Enders, who steps down in April.

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