Airbus superjumbo to end: Why has the 'jet of the future' failed?

Airbus has announced it will end production of its flagship A380 superjumbo, potentially putting UK jobs at risk.

The firm said it had made the "painful" decision after struggling to sell the world's largest passenger jet and after Emirates chose to slash its A380 orderbook by around a quarter.

Due to the reduction and a lack of order backlog with other airlines, Airbus said it would end deliveries of the record-breaking plane in 2021 – just 14 years after it first entered commercial service.

  • So why did the A380 fail?

Airbus had struggled to sell the A380 superjumbo. Credit: PA

Airbus hoped the A380 would revolutionise passenger air travel when the aircraft began flying in 2007, but strong demand failed to materialise.

The strategy was based on a belief that airlines would crave the superjumbos to move customers between hub airports.

Passengers give strong satisfaction ratings for the double-decker aircraft, which carry around 500 to 600 people.

But the development of smaller, long-range planes that are more fuel-efficient and can connect smaller airports led to its demise.

Rival aircraft manufacturer Boeing has also struggled to find customers for its first double-decker plane, the 747.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, has described the asking price of the A380 as “outrageous”.

The A380 programme was delayed and over budget, and did not turn a profit as Emirates was the only carrier to place significant orders.

As of last month, Airbus had received 313 orders for the aircraft. A reasonable target was believed to be around 600.

  • Jobs in Britain at risk

Around 200 British-based jobs are believed to be at risk. Credit: PA

Emirates is yet to take delivery of 14 of the double-decker aircraft – the wings, engines and landing gear for which are made in the UK.

Airbus said it would "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".

It is reported that around 200 of those jobs are in Britain.

The firm said an increase in production of its A320 model would offer "a significant number of internal mobility opportunities".

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said: "The A380 is not only an outstanding engineering and industrial achievement. 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.

"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."

Nearly 240ft (73m) long and with space for more than 500 passengers, the A380 stole the title of world’s largest passenger jet from the Boeing 747 when it took its maiden commercial flight from Singapore to Sydney on October 27 2007.

The giant aircraft’s first commercial flight to Europe – a Singapore Airlines service – arrived at Heathrow on March 3 2008.

According to Airbus, the plane has flown more than 500,000 revenue flights and carried over 190 million passengers to date, with more than 300 commercial flights a day.

However concerns over the future of the superjumbo began to appear and in 2016 Airbus announced a drastic cut in production, reducing the build rate by half.