Airbus bids adieu to superjumbo A380
TOULOUSE, France (AP) — To passengers, the A380 feels immediately different – spacious, smooth and oddly elegant for a jet so gargantuan. Yet to Airbus, it's become a burden so super-sized the European manufacturer is ending its production for good.
The A380 is simply too big to sell. With funereal faces, Airbus CEO Tom Enders and other executives made a stunning yet long-anticipated admission today it was the wrong product at the wrong time, created to feed a demand for 800-seat jets that never materialized.
Less than 14 years after its maiden flight, barely a decade after it started carrying passengers, the A380 is being mothballed.
Just 17 more of the planes will be completed, wrapping up in 2021. Emirates, its last and most loyal customer, said it's switching to smaller planes instead.
Distraught fans – even within Airbus' own ranks – decried the decision. Unions in Britain, Spain and France fear for the 3,500 jobs Airbus says it might threaten.
One of the jetliner's first test pilots took a more philosophical view. While he's "feeling a bit sad" about the news, Claude Lelaie says the giant plane will be remembered for pushing the barriers of aviation, like the supersonic Concorde.
"Both made history and allowed progress, technological progress," he told The Associated Press from the southern French city of Toulouse, the cradle of Airbus' worldwide operations. "That's business – you have to ensure the success of the company."
This isn't how things were supposed to pan out for the world's biggest passenger jet.
Development talks for the plane began in 2000, meant to be Airbus' 21st-century answer to rival Boeing's 1960s-era 747, and one of the most ambitious endeavors in aviation.
Its Rolls Royce engines were quieter than ever, far out on the extra-long wings. Carbon-fiber technology was used for the body to make it lighter and easier to maneuver. Its double-decker construction allowed room for bars, duty-free shops and even showers.