The world’s most loved superjumbo, the Airbus A380 programme will be shut down in 2021, after delivering the last batch of aircraft to Emirates.
Emirates had, in 2017, dragged their feet at the Dubai Airshow to sign on to the A380 aircraft given their requirements of a plus variant of the aircraft, but had eventually signed on to buy more of the A380 aircraft last year.
Given the A380 has not been as big a success as Airbus had hoped for it to be, Airbus was wary of making further enhancements to the aircraft and same with the engine manufacturers. Earlier this month, Qantas formally struck off eight of the A380s on order, although these orders anyways were from long ago and it was the writing on the wall. British Airways has been interested in buying a few of these aircraft but at the right price. Qatar Airways last week also hinted they were not going to continue to do a lot with their A380s and perhaps take them out of the fleet after ten years in service. So, the news for the A380 programme was not positive from all angles.
Emirates was also rumoured to be in the discussion to change their A380 orders, and while Airbus does not formally comment on these rumours, this time they did. Just this morning, both parties have announced a new aircraft deal, where Emirates will reduce its A380 order book and order A330neos and A350s instead.
Following a review of its operations, and in light of developments in aircraft and engine technologies, Emirates is reducing its A380 order book from 162 to 123 aircraft. Emirates will take delivery of 14 further A380s over the next two years. As a consequence and given the lack of order backlog with other airlines, Airbus will cease deliveries of the A380 in 2021. The last A380 aircraft will be delivered to Emirates Airlines in 2021.
“As a result of this decision we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years. This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021,” said Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders. “The consequences of this decision are largely embedded in our 2018 full year results”.
Emirates will be ordering 40 A330-900 and 30 A350-900 aircraft instead. The Airbus A330 and A350 aircraft will be delivered to Emirates starting from 2021 and 2024 respectively. Emirates had ordered 70 A350s earlier but cancelled the deal in 2014.
The A330neos will be deployed on Emirates’ regional destinations, and also enable the airline to serve smaller airports and thereby open new routes and connectivity for its global network. The A350s will supplement Emirates’ long-haul operations, providing the carrier with added flexibility in terms of capacity deployment on 8 to 12-hour missions from its Dubai hub.
Remember, this is going to make Emirates strategy a little different than how it is today. Emirates’ current route map is based on the 777 and the A380, but Emirates is also in the queue to be one of the first airlines to receive the 777X, and in 2017, they signed on to buy the Boeing 787 aircraft as well. So, in a nutshell, next decade, Emirates will have the A330neo, the A350, the A380, the 777 and the 777X.
It is sad to hear about the A380 shutdown, only 19 years after the A380 programme was launched in the year 2000. But the aircraft will continue to be dotting airports around the world for a long time to come.