Gosh! I never imagined I would be writing an article with this title so soon!
I mean, it just seems like it was yesterday when the Airbus A380 “Superjumbo” took to the skies! It’s been less than 14 years since the A380 first flew and it has been in service for just over 12 years!!!
But it *IS* true. Airbus today (February 14th 2019) announced that it will deliver the last of its largest passenger aircraft in 2021, thus effectively pulling the plug on the iconic double-decker A380. The fact that the Boeing 747 – the original Jumbo jet that first flew in February 1969 is expected to remain in production (as of now), and that the Airbus announcement comes barely 5 days after the Boeing 747 celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first flight just makes the whole thing quite ironic.
If the Boeing 747 revolutionised and up-sized long haul air travel, the A380 made it grander! The aircraft’s size was unprecedented, with a wingspan that is wider than the length of Airbus’s massively popular narrow-body A320 and a full length twin-aisle upper deck. It also was much quieter and more fuel efficient and flew farther than the Boeing 747. This meant that the Superjumbo often drew comparison to the Jumbo, which it was originally poised to replace.
However, the sheer size of the aircraft meant that airports needed to invest tons of money to
upgrade err… up-size their infrastructure. The cost of maintaining as well as operating these behemoths is colossal too. The development of large wide-body twin engined jets that are capable of flying passengers cheaper, faster and farther was the final nail in the coffin for the A380.
The Airbus announcement came along with the news that Emirates – the largest operator of the A380 has ordered a total of 70 brand new twin-engined Airbus aircraft. The Dubai based carrier announced an order of 40 Airbus A330-900neo and 30 Airbus A350-900 wide-body aircraft. Emirates trimmed its original order of 162 A380s to 123 jets. Even though the airline will still take delivery of 14 more A380s (more than the size of the total A380 fleet in most airlines) between 2019 and 2021, the intent was clear. That Airbus announced its decision to pull the plug on the Superjumbo on the same day should come as no surprise.
Make no mistake – the A380 will be around for more than a decade at least. Most A380 airframes are less than 10 years old and still have a lot of life left in them. If you’re one of those that have never set foot inside one of these gigantic aircraft, there is more than enough time to fly on them.
Will we ever see an aircraft larger than the A380, or at least as large as it being built in the future? Highly unlikely, but who knows? Only time will tell…