Airbus abandons iconic A380 superjumbo, lacking clients
Angela Charlton and Jon Gambrell
The Associated Press
Published Feb. 14, 2019 1:24 a.m. ET
Updated 22 minutes ago
TOULOUSE, France -- European plane manufacturer Airbus said Thursday it will stop making its superjumbo A380 in 2021 for lack of customers, abandoning the world's biggest passenger jet and one of the aviation industry's most ambitious and most troubled endeavours.
Barely a decade after the 500-plus-seat plane started carrying passengers, Airbus said in a statement that key client Emirates is cutting back its orders for the plane, and as a result, "we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production."
The decision could hurt up to 3,500 jobs and already cost the plane maker 463 million euros (about $523 million) in losses in 2018, Airbus said. The company, a European economic powerhouse, is also girding for serious disruption to its cross-continental manufacturing from a likely chaotic British exit from the EU next month.
The end of the young yet iconic jet is a boon for rival Boeing and an embarrassing symbolic blow for Airbus. A pall of mourning hung in the atmosphere Thursday at its headquarters in the southern French city of Toulouse -- but there was also a hint of relief after years of straining to keep the A380 alive.
"It's a painful decision for us," CEO Tom Enders said. "We've invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources, a lot of sweat ... but we need to be realistic."
It's also sad news for Emirates, which has the A380 as the backbone of its fleet, based out of Dubai, the world's busiest airport for international travel.
Still, Airbus announced Thursday a 29-per cent jump in overall profits last year, and analysts said global demand is high enough for Airbus to weather the loss of its superjumbo.
Among early detractors of the A380 was analyst Richard Aboulafia of Washington-based Teal Group, who said its demise "was inevitable."
"But thanks to the strength of the market right now, and the strength of Airbus's other products, the damage will not have a huge impact on the industry," he told The Associated Press. "For Boeing, it has been a very long time since they needed to worry about the A380 as a competitive factor."
Airbus reported net profit of 3.1 billion euros over last year, up from 2.4 billion euros in 2017. In addition to the A380 loss, Airbus reported a charge of 436 million euros on the A400M, used by several European militaries.