The Airbus A380 story appears to be opening a new chapter as one of its original prime customers, Air France, prepares to cut its fleet in half, to five, starting in 2019.
And while Emirates Airways, which owns just shy of half the A380s ever built threw Airbus a lifeline last spring by ordering a few more, there are no other orders on the book, no others sold in the past three years, and more airlines removing them from service.
Singapore Airlines had already returned two A380s to a leasing company, which plans to strip them for parts and salvage because they couldn't find a new operator. Another leasing company briefly considered starting its own airlines because it couldn't find anyone to lease its A380s.
And yet, passengers appear to love the plane, which usually operates with over 500 seats and can hold up to 850, calling it smooth and comfortable. But for airlines, its economics are tricky. Its 2005-era engines are larger and less efficient than today's, and even an engine update would not be as economical as two-engine options available on planes that are will into the 300-seat-plus range, including the 787-10 and A350-900.
Designed for an aviation theory that the future was for huge planes to connect major cities where passengers would change to smaller planes for the rest of their trip, it was overtaken by a desire and planes that make point-to-point travel work for most journeys. Only airlines that operate on true hub-and-spoke plans and can keep enough seats full to pay the fuel bill can really make use of it—and that's basically limited to Emirates.