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Airbus announces the end of production of the A380

For several days, rumors have been building on a possible announcement of an early landing of the Airbus program A 380. The European manufacturer has announced, Wednesday, February 14, the end of the production of this extraordinary aircraft.

Airbus has announced in a statement the end of production of its very large carrier whose deliveries will cease in 2021. According to the boss of Airbus, Tom Enders, this decision is related to the choice of the Dubai company Emirates to reduce its orders for 39 devices. "Our backlog is no longer enough to keep the production of the A380 going."said Tom Enders.

The flight plan of the Airbus A 380 seemed more and more uncertain as recent commercial woes. The Australian company Qantas announced on February 7 that it was giving up eight planes for a total of 3.5 billion euros. Above all, it was learned at the end of January that Emirates was in discussion with Airbus about an order for 36 aircraft announced early 2018. Finally, Emirates will acquire 40 A330neo and 30 A350s.

More than 800 possible passengers

The blow is all the harder because Emirates is the main customer of this extraordinary aircraft which carries on average between 550 and 600 passengers but can be configured for more than 800. The company operates a hundred or so aircraft out of 230 in operation in the world. It is even she who, thanks to her command, has somehow saved the program.

To date, the A380 has been ordered just over 320 copies, well below the hopes of Airbus. The weak sales forced Airbus to reduce the production rate, increasing to one copy per month in 2018 compared to more than two per month in 2015, leading to a program of job cuts in France and Europe.

This difficult commercial career of the A380 may seem paradoxical. In addition to the satisfaction of passengers, Airbus has changed its size in the eyes of aviation specialists by developing the largest aircraft in the world. " The American Boeing was most of the time at the origin of the big technological leaps of the sector, observes Paul Chiambaretto, professor at Montpellier Business School. And Airbus was trying to catch up with him. This very big carrier has changed the situation. "

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Nearly 400 million euros the device

With this plane, Airbus was betting on a growing number of tourists traveling around the globe; saturated airports to limit aircraft rotations, but also companies favoring a hub strategy, that is to say, concentrating on a main airport the flow of their long-haul flights to then distribute the passengers to their final destinations .

The economic circumstances created a wind that was contrary to the success of the A380, the first of which was delivered to Singapore Airlines in 2007. " With the subprime crisis, the airline sector has experienced one of its very few periods of contraction of activity, says Paul Chiambaretto. In addition, several large companies, particularly in the United States, went bankrupt. In this world became a little chilly, the first companies who had ordered the plane remained virtually its only customers. "

According to the specialist, this expensive aircraft (its average list price is close to 400 million euros in 2018) and fuel-efficient was also designed in a period where it was not imagined a significant rise in the price of kerosene. In addition, because of its size and its double deck, the A380 requires airports to make significant adjustments. " Due to its size, it also requires a delicate and more expensive maintenance Adds Paul Chiambaretto. As for the expected saturation of the airports, it was not important enough to counterbalance these handicaps.

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The Chinese relief buoy

Faced with the A380, more versatile aircraft, with two engines instead of four, have been developed in recent years, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or even the Airbus A350. They are preferred by companies that can provide more or less flights, depending on demand.

Some saw the development of the Chinese air market as a relief buoy. But the aircraft manufacturer had to save time and keep production idle, and therefore at a loss. " Finally, believes a good connoisseur of the file, the Airbus A380 has been too many years ahead and the future may be right. Meanwhile, the aircraft manufacturer says he " initiate discussions with its social partners in the coming weeks regarding the 3,000 to 3,500 positions likely to be affected by this decision in the next three years ".

But according to the builder, " the current ramp-up (production) of the A320 and the new Emirates wide-body order will offer many opportunities for internal mobility. "

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The records of the A380

550 m2. This is the size of the A380 cabin that can carry hundreds of passengers to more than 15,000 km thanks to 32,000 liters of fuel.

578 tons. This is the possible take-off weight of this aircraft whose wingspan reaches 80 meters.

800. This is the number of aircraft (all models combined) that Airbus delivered in 2018, a record number. The American Boeing delivered 806. In addition, Airbus recorded 747 orders last year, against 893 for Boeing.

Michel Waintrop

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