Airbus's super-jumbo A380, which has now been flying for 8 years, has finally broken even...but there have been no new orders for several years. That's led to reports that Airbus would close down the line once it finishes the last of the 317 orders, about half of which have been delivered.
Airbus denies those rumors, but it's not clear what the A380s future will be. Airbus recently raised the "average" passenger capacity from 525 to 544 by suggesting a change in coach seating from 10-across to 11-across; more passengers per flight mean less cost per passenger to the airline. And Emirates, which has ordered nearly 45% of all A380s, is pushing Airbus to modify the engines for greater economy.
Given the recent level of orders for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 777 range, and Airbus's competing A350, it's starting to look like Boeing made the right call 15 years when it decided there was only a limited market for super-jumbos and no room in it for two makers. In fact, Boeing estimated the total market at 400, and they may have been close to the right number, when you add continued sales of extended 747s to the A380 total.
Two interesting articles: from USA Today, the current NEWS and a 2005 piece from The Economist that reflects Airbus' optimism at the time, but also analyzes why the market for the 747 (much longer distances allowing more direct routes) is different from that for the A380 (more passengers, but fewer direct routes).
Photo: Wikimedia / David Monniaux