Loved by passengers, feared by accountants, the world’s largest airliner has run out of runway after Airbus decided to close A380 production after 12 years in service due to weak sales.
The decision to halt production of the A380 superjumbo is the final act in one of Europe’s greatest industrial adventures and reflects a dearth of orders by airline bosses unwilling to back Airbus’s vision of huge jets to combat airport congestion.
Air traffic is growing at a near-record pace but this has mainly generated demand for twin-engined jets nimble enough to fly directly to where people want to travel, rather than bulky four-engined jets forcing passengers to change at hub airports.
And while loyal supporters like top customer Emirates say the popular 544-seat jet makes money when full, each unsold seat potentially burns a hole in airline finances because of the fuel needed to keep the huge double-decker structure aloft.
“It’s an aircraft that frightens airline CFOs; the risk of failing to sell so many seats is just too high,” said a senior aerospace industry source familiar with the programme.
Once hailed as the industrial counterpart to Europe’s single currency, the demise of a globally recognized European symbol coincides with growing political strains between Britain, France, Germany and Spain where the plane is built.
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