Did you know that there is a 50% off sale on Airbus A380’s? Sadly, even with the markdown, they haven’t sold one to a passenger airline in over a year and there is no sign of that changing anytime soon. Smaller, smarter and more fuel efficient with accessibility to more destinations, that’s the way things are going. There is a little known fact in the airline industry: planes are relatively inexpensive to buy, but maintenance contracts to keep them in flight are tremendously expensive. Four engines mean more fuel, more potential problems and thus more need for maintenance. I know what you are thinking; Luftansa, Qatar, Emirates, Singapore, Korean, Air France, Asiana, Thai and Qantas all have one; so why would the Airbus A380 disappear? Running an airline is expensive. Flying the largest jumbo passenger jet in the world, half empty, is really expensive. If you enjoy the Airbus A380 for its sheer size or its state of the art cabin, make an extra effort to fly it because it won’t last forever. In case you were banking on getting a ride from Prince Al Waleed Bil Talal of Saudi Arabia on his “palace in the sky”, he’s cancelled his order too.
In time, the A380 will follow the likes of its predecessor Boeing 747, the first jumbo jet, which is now being phased out of virtually every airline fleet across the globe. Boeing has for the most part now ceased production of the 747 and Airbus did not receive an A380 order in 2014 and has yet to in 2015. Airlines love full planes and they want more people flying on them, from more cities worldwide. When planes are near capacity, airlines charge more for the remaining seats; and on smaller, more fuel efficient jets, their profit margin rises as fuel costs drop. The list of operators flying the Airbus A380 is an impressive “who’s who” in luxury airlines, but there is a fundamental flaw: not one of them is a North American carrier.
Everyone thought that the aircraft would pick up an order from a North American airline and become wildly popular, but it never happened, nor with a South American or African carrier for that matter. The truth is, most airlines only serve their longest haul destinations once or twice a day at best. They simply don’t have need for many aircraft of such magnitude, and have opted for smaller planes and more of them. The 380′ was designed to allow airlines to condense multiple flights into one, saving them a take off and landing slot, but the market has predominantly not responded. In the end, numbers have shown that on the most potentially effective A380 routes, like those of the US to Japan or China, that virtually no one has adopted the plane. Asian and North American carriers have instead opted for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, or the soon to hit the skies Airbus A350, the Dreamliner’s direct competitor. Many airlines believe that the key for expansion is presence in emerging travel markets. The accessibility of having a smaller aircraft using less fuel means more runways in more cities to which they can fly.
Don’t get me wrong, you will still see the A380 gracing our skies for a long time to come. There are presently only 138 of them in the world and once previous orders are filled, I simply don’t think there will be many more. For comparison sake, the 787 Dreamliner is newer and has already delivered 235 planes in service, with another 836 on the way. Instead of becoming the staple of the long haul skies, the A380 has become a niche product of the ultra luxury airlines on their longest hauls. If continued technology creates more efficient planes, they will become more novelty than niche, and eventually, will face extinction like the 747.
I am sadly yet to fly the A380, and don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance. Since I was a kid I cherished jumbo jets and was fascinated by the likes of the 747. Even though its old and wrinkly, I still get a kick out of flying on it or seeing it in the sky. The first time I saw the A380 approaching over New York, I thought the aliens had landed and I have wanted to fly it every day since. If you are an airline executive from Emirates, Singapore, Lufthansa, Qatar, Air France, Asiana, Korean Air or Qantas, give a kid a chance? I’ll write a nice review with pretty pictures….
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