Their A380 Lost Billions; Here’s Why Airbus Considers It A Success

Filed Under: Misc.

This February we learned that production of the Airbus A380 will end in 2021. As of February, Airbus only planned on building another 17 A380s, including three that are going to ANA, and 14 that are going to Emirates.

The A380: was there even demand?

With the huge global increase in air travel, it’s on one hand surprising to see that the A380 has been such a flop. While Emirates has loved the plane, no other airline has embraced it.

Emirates A380

You’d think there would be a fair amount of demand for the A380, given that the plane has significantly lower per passenger operating costs than the 747, and back in the day that plane ruled the skies.

The problem is that the A380 was introduced around the same time as the 787 and only years before the A350, which are long range, lower capacity, fuel efficient aircraft. Airlines ultimately decided that they’d rather operate smaller planes that are easier to fill with good yields, rather than buying planes this big.

What I’m still conflicted about is whether the A380 was a plane for which there was never demand, or if it was simply a plane before its time. With airports getting increasingly congested, is the issue just that the world wasn’t ready for the A380? Would there have been demand for this plane in a decade?

No one really knows, though I guess we’ll see if we ever see another “double decker” plane, or the 777X is the biggest jet that airlines will want going forward.

Rendering of the 777-9 in Lufthansa colors

Airbus lost a lot of money on the A380

Airbus most definitely lost money on the A380, though we don’t quite know how much. Their development costs upfront were somewhere in the range of 17-25 billion USD.

Then when it came to production costs, Airbus allegedly only barely broke even. So it’s safe to say that Airbus lost a lot of money on the A380, though we don’t know how many billions.

Why Airbus claims the A380 was a success

Airbus lost billions of dollars on the A380, and production ended much sooner than they were expecting. Yet Airbus’ new CEO claims that the plane was a success.

Some might think he’s just trying to put a positive spin on it, but I actually think there might be some merit to what’s he’s saying.

As Leeham explains, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury claims the A380 was a success because it paved the way for Airbus’ successful development and production of the A350, and the transformation of Airbus as a company into what it is today.

In 2006 Airbus had problems with the final assembly of the A380, which exposed problems between the French and German plants where the A380 was produced. The two plants used different versions of a program to create the plane’s wiring, and when they put it together, it was a few inches short.

This disaster led to a delay of nearly 18 months for the plane being put into service.

Airbus believes that if it weren’t for this snafu, the same problems would have happened with A350 production. The A350 has been a huge success for Airbus, with nearly 900 sales of the plane so far. All things considered production of the plane has been smooth, and they credit much of what they learned from the A380 for that.

Malaysia Airlines A350

Beyond that, I do think there’s something to be said for the fact that the A380 gave Airbus a lot of credibility, both among consumers and among airlines. It showed what a versatile plane maker they are (they can building everything from an A220 to an A380), and it has been a favorite among customers.

Back in the day Boeing had more market share than Airbus, but Airbus has come a long way, even if the project didn’t pan out to be as popular as they had hoped.

What do you guys think — is Airbus’ CEO onto something when he says the A380 project was a success?

Comments
  1. What sense does that make. He’s saying they didn’t lose time and money building the A380 because they production mistakes that they could learn about before building the A350?

    So, what if they didn’t build the A380 and went straight to the A350 (essentially what Boeing did)? They would have found these mistakes and fixed them and had an earlier launch of the A350.

  2. @ Daniel — I don’t think he’s saying they didn’t lose time and money, as obviously they did. He’s just saying the project was a “success.” I don’t think the A380’s production necessarily impacted their timeline for building the A350, but I could be mistaken.

  3. So, you’re telling me, if, given the choice, Airbus would rather have lost $15-20 billion but fixed this mistake on an airplane that is getting cancelled rather than not lost the money and built the A350 first but figured out the mistake while building that aircraft?

    It’s an absurd argument.

  4. Airbus is still in business and has evolved to adjust to the demands and requirements of whay airlines want and need for passenger aircraft. The A380 was an attempt to push the boundaries of passenger air travel. They succeeded in producing a plane that changed the game even though it wasn’t a “financial success” it was still a feat to create that aircraft. Maybe down the track it will become a more sought after aircraft due to airports congesting but I also believe it may become a great charter aircraft for super events.
    With population growth far speedier than what planes can be made who knows we could see countries like India, China, Nigeria, Indonesia and others that are rapidly poulating utilise this arcraft later on in 20-30 years

  5. Nice analysis. The A350 has had ZERO problems since introduction and it’s a passenger’s delight to fly, quiet and spacious. The 787 has had heaps of problems, is narrow, and is loud — a missed opportunity. It’s obvious that Airbus learned a lot from the A380 and delivered both what passengers and airlines like, while Boeing came short with the 787.

  6. I would not be surprised if they all end up flying to/from slot congested airports with poor secondary options, like LHR, as this was one of the initial selling points.

  7. I would say that Airbus won customers’ hearts too. Everybody who wants to fly wants a trip on an A380 at some point.

    My strategy is flying the 747 as much as I can (BA will retire them in the next 5 years) and then aim for the 380 to fly them as much as possible before they retire…

  8. This is what we call a silver lining. He’s basically saying thank god we found a massive fundamental organizational and IT flaw on basically a product nobody wants during the design process than if we found it during one we had actual demand!

    Unless they can apply a lot of the R&D from the A380 into the A350 breaking even on manufacturing is probably the best they are going to get.

  9. I agree with your questioning why the A380 wasn’t more of a long term success. I knew the U.S. carriers would never go for it, but I thought airlines with heavy reliance on slot controlled airports (E.g. BA) or highly restricted routes would have invested heavily. And, as you mentioned, with the 747 program petering out (for all practical purposes), an argument could be made that the timing was right. I’m curious how much a limited secondary market due to the prohibitive costs of “D checks” played a part in its “downfall”.
    As for Airbus’ assertion that the program was a success, well…I don’t buy it. I mean, one could say it was an intellectual success (like Concord) but I think it’s a hard case to claim it was a business success.

  10. it definitely is my fav plane to fly and the second best being A350. For whatever technology they use, these planes are really smooth and quiet. Especially on A380, you don’t really notice much when you take off and land. I always had much better sleep on those planes too. I wonder why B787 is not that good, yet many airlines seem to prefer B787 over A350

  11. Definitely the 380 positioned Airbus as a true ultra Long haul plane maker- a position that Boeing dominated for many years and I do see some merit in him saying that it lead airlines to see them in a new light which somewhat contributed to the A350s success. To say it was a success however is a bit of a stretch (pun absolutely intended).
    The real killer for the 380 was the 777-300er which gave airlines the flexibility to pack in upto 440 pax in an ultra-dense configuration or 270 in a premium heavy configuration while operating on a similar range. Apart from being more fuel efficient it was far easier to manage in terms of training, maintainence and airport infrastructure.
    Essentially, the 77W did what a 380 mandated to do with far more efficiency effectively making the aircraft obsolete. It was large enough to operate high density routes and yet could be flexibly configured to operate across a range of routes ranging from leisure to business.
    The other issue was that the airline business itself changed dramatically by the time the 380 came to market. Fuel prices went up and Low cost airlines operating from secondary airports forced legacy airlines to focus on yields versus passenger numbers. Airlines in turn became very efficiency focussed essentially turning the 380 into a niched airplane for a few airlines and routes. Case in point- BA which should have been a text book customer for the 380 (large 747 fleet operating from a slot constrained airport) restricted their fleet to a mere 20 as they found they could complete all their missions with a 77w or 777x.
    Which is why I doubt that the 380 will make a come back. With the growth in air travel, new point to point routes will open up negating the need for a hub. Secondary airports (such as Gatwick and Orly) will grow to cater to a price sensitive traveler that will be heralded by new carriers such as “Moxy.”
    Perhaps in 20 years there may be a niched case for a 380, but by then it’s technology will be obsolete. Whether any company will choose to invest in it again remains to be seen.

  12. Jake – Came here to say the exact same thing. A350 seems to have had few to no issues both with the aircraft itself and passenger satisfaction. Can’t say the same for the dumpster fire that is the 787.

  13. It’s important not to ignore the passenger perspective on why this plane was a failure. I flew it twice, once in economy and once in business class and disliked it a lot. It was a circus with 600 people trying to board and deplane, and at baggage claim and in immigration lines, etc. I can’t imagine the mess of rebooking if one of these flights were to be cancelled. As a long haul business flyer, I avoided these planes as did most of my colleagues and friends and I’m glad this concept never caught on.

  14. A380 definitely made Airbus more well-known to the world. It’s the only double decker commercial aircraft. I still remember my excitement of flying it for the first time back in 2009.
    I do think if Airbus developed a few years later and made it more fuel-efficient, it would have fared better.

  15. Fuel costs and the last global recession killed the A380. The plane came out just before operating costs soared and flying demand went down. Airlines had to get clever to survive. Boeing and Airbus then came out with more economical aircraft for long haul travel. It is really no surprise that demand for the A380 never really took off.

  16. A more honest comment would have been to say that, although the program was, on its own merits, not a success, that the learnings were exceptionally valuable to the organization. Another thing about the A350 is that the plane that Airbus launched is not the first A350 design they tried to sell. Have a look at the A350 that Doug Parker signed on for just after HP’s takeover of US. It was essentially what’s become the A330NEO and Airbus was sent back to the drawing board to come up with a product more competitive with the 787. I’d argue that the existence of the A380 ensured that Airbus was sufficiently preoccupied to let the initial A350 program to wither, which allowed the order book to remain unfilled, which, in turn, allowed time for a reexamination of the entire program.

  17. did Airbus lose money on the A380? Hard to tell because you never mentioned it!

    Come it’s just sloppy writing to say the same thing over and over again.

    I count 3 times in the same paragraph let alone the other times you say it.

    Airbus lost a lot of money on the A380

    Airbus most definitely lost money on the A380, though we don’t quite know how much. Their development costs upfront were somewhere in the range of 17-25 billion USD.

    Then when it came to production costs, Airbus allegedly only barely broke even. So it’s safe to say that Airbus lost a lot of money on the A380, though we don’t know how many billions.

  18. I look at the A380 as a limited success. Technology and know how. Yes.

    It was not a disaster like the Dassault Mercure. It was more successful than the VC-10 or Trident.

  19. The A380 was a business failure because it did not provide the cost per passenger mile savings to make it competitive with other aircraft coming shortly after it’s introduction. The big design compromises that doomed the A380 were,: 1. Low aspect ratio wing, which decreased the efficiency (Boeing solved this issue on the 777 by having folding wingtips). 2. Conventional materials rather than composite construction, making the A380 heavier than more modern designs.

    So in the end the A380 was only slightly more cost effective than a 747-8, and no better than 787, 777, or A350, but it takes a lot of passengers to fill it.

  20. I’ve flown the A380 on many occasions and will say that all of those flights were some of the best. The overinsulation of the aircraft provides what should be the standard for flight. When in the air, it’s a bit like being weightless at times since the flight is so quiet and smooth.

    The only equivalent I can think of was the NB Whisper Jets in the 80’s which had abated engine noise, causing similar experiences.

    Having delivered and flown on A330-300, B787-900, and A350, while they are all nice aircraft, the A380 was clearly the best in terms of customer experience regardless of the specific airline – to me that’s an unqualified success. There’s nothing quite like a double decker!

  21. IMO the A380 is the greatest plane ever built for luxury travel other than the Concorde which was more about speed than comfort.Its large spacious & elegant and is the finest flying experience of my lifetime
    Its quiet and I simply feel better getting of the plane than a Boeing the 787 which
    is over rated
    Why the financial end didn’t work out is a whole other disappointing challenge
    For me Airbus changed my perception that they simply make planes for a Superior passenger experience compared to others
    If there is anyway I can get on it over all the others I’m there!
    Have to try the A350 too

  22. I agree with those who praised 380: I really enjoyed flying business class on that plane from SF to Sidney… Sorry to see it go…

  23. LOL…lose tens of billions and they could care less. Goes without saying, Airbus is just a subsidized European ‘jobs program’. They may make great products, but have no idea how to run a profitable a ‘real’ business…
    I love Europe, live there 100 days a year, but give us a break with the ‘A380 program successful’…that just makes people laugh, mock European business standards.

  24. Best Plane Ever. As pax, all I can say is thank you airbus for such a wonderful flight experience. I will never forget my hours inside the A380.

  25. Looking at the wider picture, it is clear that Airbus made errors in judgement when setting out the design for the A380 family which ultimately was the downfall. To start with the wing is too large and consequently relatively inefficient, resulting in increased fuel burn. Remember the wing was designed for the much heavier stretched A380-900 and the freighter. The -800 flew first, the -900 never got off the drawing board. I understand the freighter was never really a feasible proposition for the market due to the payload, floor structure and lack of options for swing door loading. The lack of freighter option potentially is a big problem for the second user market. Any 744 with hours and cycles still has a life as freighter conversion.
    On the other hand the A380 is an amazing aircraft. I’d much rather fly A380 that B787. I find the A380 spacious and effortless, whereas the B787 is cramped, noisy, uncomfortable and I find the buffering on take-off most unpleasant. The A350 also is very comfortable.
    I believe that Airbus has indeed learnt a great deal through the A380 program. Remembering that the A340 before, especially the -600 had more that it’s fair share of teething problems, it seems that Airbus’ investment and R&D have improved all areas of manufacturing and quality.
    The A380 shall be missed when it is gone. Maybe with the right wing it could have been a better economic proposition for the airlines. Ultimately it seems that the lack of suitable power plants has ended the story. It seems that first EA could not offer what the buyers wanted. Emirates appear also unsatisfied with the RR package. With a limited demand RR and Airbus were not able to invest in the improvements required by their number one customer.

  26. The plane might be ahead of its time but even in 2019 it’s still not a valuable asset. So it’s at least decades ahead of viable use, even today.

  27. I just love the A380, as does my Mum. I do anything possible to pick flights using it. The most comfortable and best featured plane I have flown in Economy, by a long way. My Mum who always flew Business, had the same opinion there too. On top of that, it always provided the smoothest flights, take-offs and landings.

    Was a great PR winner for Airbus and as the article rightfully states, they gained a lot of respect for it, which I don’t doubt boosted sales of it’s other aircraft.

  28. My late Gran lived in Limoux in the south of France. When I would visit I would see the A380 flying over on test flights and as such I became attached to that plane straight away and I fell in love. So it’s genuinely sad to see it end. As flying on and seeing these magnificent planes always reminds me of sitting out in the sun with my gran playing cards and getting drunk.

  29. I love flying A380. I think it set new standards for cabin comfort ( I mostly fly eco) and it is always my first option to fly.
    I read that it’s belly cargo capacity in comparison with B747 and B77W is significantly smaller and it can be a game changer for many routes whem load factor is not high enough.
    Sasa

  30. To provide a counterpoint to the view stated by Donna above, I always look for and select an A380 operated flight, whether flying for business or pleasure. Of course, I am lucky that most of the long haul destinations I travel to are served by A380 flights, direct or via a hub somewhere. Embarking or disembarking has never been an issue, if anything it has always been fast and efficient. The only location where I have experienced chaos in the baggage hall has been in the USA. And I like the USA, so don’t dismiss me as, what is the word, a hater?!

    Just a different point of view. Horses for courses.

  31. Dumpster fire eh? The 787 has sold 60% more airplanes than the 350, has a family of successful derivatives and a much wider customer base. Its also has a fuselage that is 100% composite in construction whereas the 350’s is composite panels hung of a metal frame, which account for its windows being smaller than that on the 350.

  32. If Airbus was a completely private company would not the loss of $billions of dollars bankrupt the company? But because Airbus is government supported, the loss of $billions falls to tax payers to pick up the pieces. Ask tax payers if it was a success. But then who cares about tax payers? When we are talking about government finance maybe it doesn’t matter as $billions lost seem to fall into a black hole that no one cares about.

  33. The A380 not ahead of its time. Au contraire, it was at least 30 years too late since part of the rationale for building it was to compete with and then outperform the B747 — a plane that literally revolutionized large-capacity, long-haul, commercial aviation and travel after its introduction in 1970.

  34. I guess @Donna is the only one that has commented on a negative consumer experience on the A380 which is odd. I agree with almost everyone else that I’ve much preferred the A380 to most other planes. I for one am going to miss them.

  35. We are talking airplanes not politics. Go tune into cnn or fox if you want to do that.

  36. I kind of see the author’s point of view. Internal issues, discrepancies and process flaws with the A380 set them up for getting things together. It may well be that the fall of the A380 paved the way for smoother efforts in the future. Although it’s a very expensive and painful way to learn.

    Having said that, I how those in service stick around for a long time, because it’s the best plane I have ever traveled in.

  37. Sad that most comments are focused on nostalgia, double decker status and other silliness. The plane sucks people!! Let the free market (i.e. Boeing) compete against the government and the best plane wins absent crazy subsidies (I.e. Airbus).

  38. Mixed blessings. Airbus trying to cover, but at the same time engineering efforts such as this legitimized Airbus in the wake of Boeing indifference regardless of the economics. A380 is wonderful to fly in. Boeing sometimes seems in a race to stretch to the bottom.

  39. There are qualitative and quantitative aspects of aircraft, or really just about any product made by a company.

    The cute things, the qualitative things, about the A380 are admirable: it’s quiet upstairs, Airbus learned how to measure wiring properly, the 380 showed the world a true double-decker was possible, etc.

    But the fact of the matter is that Airbus has a balance sheet, even if various EU countries make it a cushy and forgiving one for them, and if you can’t turn a profit (this is the quantitative part) on a product you make, pretty soon you won’t have a company.

    And the goal of any company is to make money.

    We can wax poetic all day long about the qualitative stuff, but the A380 is ending production because it doesn’t make money, so as harsh as that is, it makes the plane a dud.

    I’m sure Airbus would have learned to throw a little extra wire into the A350 for much less than hemorrhaging several billions of dollars on the A380.

  40. @ Larry Walker….What the heck are you commenting on? No one has talked politics in this thread that I can see.

  41. The discussion on subsidies for both airbus and boeing have points of considerable political debate.

  42. 40 years from now the A380 will be needed. There are no major new airports in the works, and most airports are land bound – can’t add more runways or terminals – plus the airspace is the same.

    Small jets may have to be restricted at large airports.

    Demand will be there.

  43. The Boeing 747 arrived in 1969 when hub and spoke flights was the norm. Most western flyers hated this, because why go on two connecting flights when you can take a DIRECT flight in a small 737. That’s why small planes work in the USA. Emirates is the number one user of the Airbus 380. They serve a totally different market. They transport expatriate workers from India and the UK into the middle east. They also get a lot of Hajjis who fly from Africa and Asia to go to Mecca for the Muslim pilgrimage. These are long flights and the planes are full enough to break even. These planes are too big to work in the US because business flyers want 8 flights a day to and from Chicago to New York , not one large plane that flies twice in the same day. Ohare doesnt even have ramps that can service the upper deck of a 380.

  44. The issue is the number of engines under the wing. All four engines aircraft after 777 have not been successful. Building an A380-Size twin-engine aircraft is the challenge.

  45. @Boyd Olson, It’s not like Boeing isn’t subsidized, too. Washington state and local governments have given it billions, plus there are billions more in subsidies it gets through the federal government, particularly on favorable terms for defense contracts (the former McDonnell-Douglas part of the company). Boeing is almost always at the top of the list of companies that owe no federal taxes despite its profits. Take a look at the World Trade Organization website if you don’t believe me, where you can see the multiple cases the European Union has won against the United States on this issue.

  46. Some of the Engineering tech, both frame and avionics, that you see in the development costs, would have otherwise shown up in the A350 costs. So it wasn’t totally wasted.

    Additionally it was, and continues to be, a huge advertisement for Airbus. It still to this day draws crowds. It still has videos posted online. Brand value like this takes investment to build and the effects last for decades.

    It’s like Gucci and other premium brands having all those empty giant shops in prime real estate – Of course the shop doesn’t make a profit, but progresses the overall brand which is felt across the business.

    Yes, Airbus didn’t make a profit directly from the A380. But perhaps the long term picture isn’t so bad. A320, A330, A350 sales are through the roof and in the wake of all the 787 and 737 problems, i’d say Airbus is positioned to capture further market share going forward.

  47. the A380 was a success to me simply because it made my wild aviation imagination come true and it’s an engineering wonder to see these majestic machines each time. it may not make business or dollar sense, but i’m sure glad the A380 happened and look forward to continue to see them at airports

  48. The A380 was a technical success but a commercial flop – a case of not viewing through a wide lens to all of the infrastructure needed to support the behemoth.

  49. “Yes, we lose millions on every plane, but we make up for it in volume”?!?!?

    There was *never* a reason for the A380 (IMHO). It has always been a “white elephant” of a plane, difficult to fill completely. As Lucky points out above, no carrier other than Emirates really embraced the plane, taking delivery of 10+ A380s. Next closest, in terms of numbers, was Singapore with 24, and they’ve already retired some; Lufthansa has 14; BA and Qantas, 12 each; Air France, Korean, Etihad, and Qatar each have 10. You aren’t going to be a success with those numbers. Airbus needed US-based airlines to embrace it if they ever had a snowball’s chance in hell, and no US carrier even looked twice.

    A word about Emirates. As someone living in the US, and *not* needing to fly to or connect through Dubai, when would I ever fly them? (Note: I have, but only their 5th Freedom flight between JFK and MXP.) I am not the only citizen of North America who doesn’t need to fly to/through Dubai, and that relegates a whole lot of their capacity completely irrelevant to my needs and the needs of thousands, even millions, of others. Never mind that Emirates is a top airline, and even in Economy I had a great flight, the point here is I have far more opportunities/needs to fly from the California to Asia or Europe onboard other carriers than any of the ME3. If fliers in the US and Canada, let alone Europe and Eastern Asia have relatively little need for your aircraft, it’s going to be a failure.

    @Emily is right: From a commercial point-of-view, it’s been a complete failure and money-loser from the get-go. From a technology point-of-view, it was certainly an advance over any prior Airbus product, and its developments led to the A350…a much better plane all-around.

  50. “success”

    Bloated, expensive, overweight… vanity project.

    A380 is a metaphor for the EU. Like the Concorde, the French built it “because they could” despite it making no sense for the economic realities.

  51. I agree with you that the market for the 380 may come back. Despite the disadvantage of four engines, the capacity of the 380 may then be needed again, and Airbus would be able to come up with a 380neo with lower operating costs for sense directions.

    It is more concerning that Airbus instead of gaining benefits from Boeing’s deep crisis by ramping up productivity still insists on its program to cut costs by laying off people.

    What an opportunity wasted.

  52. The A380 was a world-wide DISASTER – the full cost of which has not ever been accounted for and charged back to Airbus.

    Every major airport in the world was required to expand and strengthen their runways to accept the size and weight of the A380. AT A COST OF BILLIONS. Every major airport in the world was required to build new terminal infrastructure to accommodate the double-decked A380. Again AT A COST OF BILLIONS!

    Every major airport in the world should SUE AIRBUS for the cost of the new construction and modifications required to accommodate the A380 given that it was known to be mis-conceived and doomed to failure from the start. Every air traveler in the last two decades was delayed or inconvenienced because Airbus wanted to “prove they were a big boy also” with the A380. The disruption at every airport in the world was extensive. Airbus should compensate the airports for the losses during that time.

    Obviously no one is going to sue Airbus and all the Avgeeks in the world still love the A380.

    But it was a VERY BAD DECISION from the very start and Airbus should accept the blame for all the wasted construction costs and infrastructure that will now be rendered useless with future designs. Possibly the runway reinforcement was a good idea given the 777X might have higher landing weights but the terminal infrastructure is wasted space once it dies.

    But all the Airbus lovers stay totally silent on all this wasted expenditure for a WHITE ELEPHANT.

  53. Well that’s too funny. This sort of attitude apparently would have us landing on dirt runways with Flintstone Airplanes. Every airline and airport who CHOSE to modify their capacity did so in support of a promising capability. Aerospace work doesn’t come with ironclad guarantees, any more than life in general. I have been on the delivery teams from both Airbus and Boeing, Hamburg and Toulouse, Everett and Charleston, and both companies have their strengths and weaknesses.

    Regardless of the economics for the A380 proposition, primarily driven off hub and spoke assumptions that have become passe’, I stand by my statements that the A380 is one of the best aircraft ever produced when it comes to pax comfort and experience. At the end of the economic day, if your passengers aren’t satisfied, your business goes somewhere else.

  54. It was only a few weeks ago that I flew on a 747 for the first time, on British Airways.

    In September I will be flying on the A380 for the first time, on Qantas.

    Better late than never.

    (The best part of my most recent trip was flying on an BAe 142 from ORY to LCY!)

  55. What makes a successful plane, is a plane that doesn’t kill you, because of a design flaw or that has a computer whose only job is to point the nose of the plane towards the ground on earth.

  56. What many here fail to realize is that Airbus’s customers are the airlines NOT passengers. Less than 1% of passengers will book a flight based on the aircraft. So the aviation geeks can keep gushing but none of that moves the needle for Airbus!

  57. Having dealt directly with multiple airlines as my primary direct customers (two of which are in the top five in the world) for several years, I can assure you the airlines are far more than well attuned to the desires and particularly the disappointments of pax air travel in all its aspects. No matter how it gets sliced, there’s only a few revenue bases for the airline, even though they are trying mightily to change that. I guess those of us in the 1% “geeks” to make sure our customers know how well we love the A380, as that component will not change for me.

  58. In my experience I prefer the A380 when flying in First but avoid it when flying in Business. The extra space airlines can play with often means a more innovative first class product with amenities like showers and expansive private suites. Business class seating tends to be more standard (as in the same as on offer in other widebody aircraft in their respective fleet) and the 80+ seats result in a less private feeling…

    For some reason I didn’t want to like the A380 when it first came out but it was/is indeed an impressive experience.

    The A350 is equally impressive, especially how quiet it is. However I find the forward cabin to be awkwardly designed, and it always looks like flight attendants are stepping over one another in a small galley, and passengers stepping over the mess to get to forward lavs.

    I would love to see real airline spreadsheets (not manufacturer estimates) comparing costs on the A380 vs the 787 or A350. I recall the QANTAS CEO once remarking that it was cheaper to fly two 787s nose-to- tail than one A380. But, while easy to visualize, these comments don’t dig at the nuance of why airlines generally find the A380 bad for the bottom line. The airline industry can be so opaque to outsiders and it is easy for us to speculate but seeing an honest presentation of the numbers would be pretty cool.

  59. I think calling the A380 a success is probably generous spin. True, they have made major organizational changes – such as being more responsive to the market than governments or national egos. Probably the best example of this positive change was the decision to cancel the continuing production of the aircraft.

    However, fixing IT issues and major organizational challenges aside . . . this is an aircraft that should never have been built. I’ve sat for hours (don’t ask how many) in the lounge at the Renaissance at LHR watching planes arrive and depart. I’ve been at Border Control at Gatwick when A380s deplane. The one issue that no-one ever raises about this is feeder flights. For all the aircraft the A380 should replace, unless passengers are only flying hub to hub, you have to have 737s, A319s, Embraers, and other small jets ferrying passengers from their home airports to the hubs, and from the hubs to their final destinations. Point to point flying with these new aircraft is going to be quicker, likely cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. The business model, and the routes, for the A380 just aren’t there.

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