Sad: The Final Airbus A380 Has Been Assembled

Filed Under: Misc.

This week marks another milestone for the plane that never really reached its full potential…

Airbus completes assembly of the final A380

Yesterday the final Airbus A380 to ever be produced rolled out from the final assembly line in Toulouse, France. Airbus held a special event for employees to commemorate this milestone, which was attended by Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.

The final A380 has the manufacturer serial number (MSN) 272, so that’s how many A380s have been produced since production started in 2005.

The final Airbus A380 to be assembled

The final Airbus A380 to be assembled

Ceremony to commemorate the final A380

There are still a total of nine outstanding Airbus A380 deliveries, with eight of the whales going to Emirates (for a total of 122 A380s), and one plane going to All Nippon Airways (for a total of three A380s).

Understandably airlines are trying to defer delivery of these planes as long as possible given that they have no need for them, so only time will tell when these planes are actually flying with paying passengers.

We knew this day would come…

For so long the A380 seemed like the future of air travel. Before the pandemic, the number of people traveling annually continued to climb, so with airports becoming increasingly congested, you’d think larger planes would also represent the future.

Unfortunately that’s not how it worked out, though. Airlines prefer planes like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787, which are smaller and long range, while still being fuel efficient. This allows airlines to profitably operate point-to-point routes, which the A380 could only do in a limited number of markets.

Emirates was the only airline that fully embraced the A380, and the airline operated nearly as many A380s as all other airlines combined.

We officially learned that A380 production would end in early 2019. The future of the A380 came down to Emirates, and the Dubai-based airline realized it didn’t make sense to singlehandedly keep the plane “alive” forever.

Emirates has embraced the A380 more than any other airline

How much longer will the A380 fly?

While this marks the end of A380 production, we can still expect the plane to be flying for many years to come. Well, or at least that was the plan before the pandemic.

Since the pandemic started, Air France has retired its entire A380 fleet, and Lufthansa will retire its entire A380 fleet unless there’s an “unexpectedly rapid market recovery.”

Before the pandemic Emirates indicated it would fly A380s through the mid-2030s. The A380 has been flying passengers for about 13 years, so hopefully it’ll be flying for at least 13 more…

Lufthansa plans to retire its A380 fleet

Bottom line

There’s a lot to be sad about in the airline industry during the pandemic, from aircraft retirements to layoffs. This particular A380 development doesn’t come as a surprise, as we knew A380 production would end even before the pandemic.

I totally get why A380 production is being discontinued, and why airlines are opting for smaller planes, that are easier to fly more profitably. Still, as the world population continues to grow, and as travel hopefully (eventually) recovers, one has to wonder if we’ll ever see a 500+ person plane produced again.

Understandably there are other focuses, and this week we’ve even seen Airbus unveil prototypes for zero-emission aircraft, which could be flying by 2035.

What do you make of this milestone for the A380?

  1. How many billions of dollars have airports spent to reconfigure their gates, aprons, and other infrastructure to accommodate these beasts? I wonder if the special multiple-jetbridge setups will become white elephants in the places outside of DXB that have potentially already seen their last A380s ever or will soon.

  2. @GoAmtrak, a multiple jetbridge setup can still be used to expedite boarding or leaving the aircraft, unless some of the bridges can only go to the upper deck. Using the way-back door to board economy from both ends would make things so much faster.

    But yes, airport did spend a lot of money. Boston Logan built an extension to their Terminal E to handle A380s from Emirates, Lufthansa and British, with even more new gates planned (some of them now scrapped).

  3. I recall waiting 90 minutes at baggage claim at a JFK carousel not designed to handle a full A380. It was crazy with bags being off loaded and laid in endless rows aside the carousel with hundreds of people crowding trying to find their bags. All I could think of was the insanity that would accompany a canceled full A380 rebooking process.

    Airbus took a gamble and lost. I’m not sure we will see this concept again in our lifetimes.

  4. It must have been a pretty emotional day at Airbus. Does anyone know where those employees are being reassigned/re-tasked?

  5. Am I correct to think that since the B747, there is really not much US inventions in Aircraft design? Put business feasibility and engine designs aside, Concord – huge technical accomplishment/invention. A380 – huge technical accomplishment/invention, now Airbus is looking at Delta wing design, has US shown any public (non military) facing inventions that actually took off the ground in the past 50 years? I’m not here to argue, I’m just curious.

  6. A total joy to fly. So quiet for a mammoth aircraft. Make you wonder where these newest birds will sit while they get the first passengers onboard

  7. Air France said back in June that they were retiring the A380 immediately and permanently. However, I’m in the process of trying to reschedule a Europe trip that we had to cancel this year due to COVID. On Delta’s booking site, it shows Air France operating the A380-800 on flights to and from both Barcelona and Rome in August of 2021. AND, in the aircraft details it says that the aircraft’s Business Class seats have 16″ screens. Is there any chance that AF is keeping the Whale in service AND upgrading to their newer Business Class seats?

  8. I fear that within 10 years, it will be difficult for passengers to book an A380 flight, depending on their travel patterns. I, for one, have no need to fly to or through Dubai.

    I see Emirates flying the plane. I also see Qantas flying the plane again one day because there’s limited competition and lots of traffic to Australia. British Airways and China Southern might. ANA is hard to predict. They have a new fleet but then their fleet is so small.

    There might be one new customer for a used A380, the French air force to carry the French president. Who knows?!

  9. No Jeff Sites

    It was already decided the AF A380 would have been too costly to upgrade to their newer business class seats, before the covid-19 crisis, and so were supposed to be retired in two years time.

    Delta’s booking site is in error about that.

    Already 3 AF A380 can be spotted at Tarbes airport where a company is going to dismantle them.

  10. Other than in China, I don’t know of any major airports planned. When the pandemic is over and air travel resumes, passengers will grow. With limited airport slots – someday big planes will likely be needed. What will the situation be 50 years from now?

  11. Sad but a sign of the economic and pandemic times. Looking forward unless they can find an efficient way to utilize these for cargo like they did with the 747 the only 380s you see may be in museums and photographs.

    As far as innovation in aviation, Boeing has and continues to lead, but in a manor which puzzles me at times. The use of carbon fiber and composites for the fuselage and wings is ground breaking, as is the complex wing efficiency piece, but then they make bonehead decisions like with the 737 max and take 10 steps back because of shortcuts taken. Suffice it to say that many of the advancements they have made are licensed to others, but with the horizon clouded by dubious demand moving forward, how much do they want to dedicate to forward looking technology that may not be used.

    The 380 is an excellent example of a great innovation with a horrible implementation. It did provide huge numbers of passengers the ability to all travel in what was supposed to be a more efficient package, but it also required tremendous infrastructure outlays to utilize the advanced features such as multiple level loading, and increased pressure on the terminals in both waiting areas and boarding processes.

    Bottom line IMO this plane was doomed, the pandemic only sped up the ultimate demise.

  12. @Endre, I think Boeing produced the first two-engine passenger jet approved for trans-Atlantic flight, the 757. I think Boeing’s 787 was also innovative in its fuel efficiency and range that enable airlines to do what Ben describes, fly a good passenger load 300+ pax long distances such as trans-Pacific. Followers of Ben more aviatin geeks than I will better answer your question.

  13. @Bob I believe the Air France flight info on Delta’s site comes directly from AF. So for some reason the A380 is still being shown in AF’s system.

    I’m hesitant to book those tickets until I know what Aircraft will replace the A380 on those routes.

  14. Love Flying The Big Bird in First & Business (Emirates) wife still prefers Business over First! Not the Best Feeling if you were in the economy section and had to wait 1.5 Hours for luggage.

  15. Whatever its other merits or demerits, it was easily the most hideous passenger airliner to ever take to the skies. I will not miss it.

  16. You have to wonder if the A380 might be the thing that solves the transatlantic space challenge for passengers. If they need to keep seats free for social distancing, the A380, with its higher seat count would make it more cost effective to run that say, a Delta 767.

    I’d be surprised if the A380, when passenger numbers go up, doesn’t become appealing to airlines again. After all, demand at the moment is very much tied to access to that country by the origin or destination.

  17. For those who don’t like the A380 due to its appearance and find it ugly, I was one of them. And I find the A350 too at some angles to be strange in shape.

    However it is only once I was onboard the A380 did I realise how beautiful it was on the inside. Spacious, quiet, comfortable and one arrived a lot more relaxed after a 12 hour flight. And I am saying all this while in Economy. If you haven’t been on an A380 believe me you have no idea what you are missing. And a view just of those engines if you get to sit in the nose section are something to marvel at all through the flight.

    Ben, hope you permit this post :). I would consider myself very “lucky” if you did.

  18. “ For so long the A380 seemed like the future of air travel.”

    Never did it seem like the future of air travel outside Airbus HQ. Most analysts and observers correctly pegged it as a commercial failure immediately.

    That said the plane built Emirates and Emirates made the plane what it is. It’s too bad she failed as a plane. It’s a very cool product.

    Of course many coil products lack a real market.

  19. have flown the A380-800 more than ninety times; fantastic plane to fly ; much better than the sardine can of B777-300 (particularly during turbulence)
    traffic will rebound sharply – those airlines grounding it, will regret!

  20. It always surprises me that Airbus didn’t build a cargo version of this plane. It’s kinda ironic that 747 would be in production longer than 380. I would imagine some/most logistic companies would want a larger plane to carry more stuffs, as the supply chain gets longer and more precise (and people more and more want the 2-day shipping thing).

  21. Demand for air travel in 2020: *slows*
    Airlines: *Retire larger planes like the 747 and A380*
    Demand post-pandemic: *spikes, especially for VFR purposes*

  22. Never quite managed a flight on one, it would have been an Emirates flight from NZ to Australia though. Same scenario for the 747, put out to pasture – the days of 4 engine jets has gone.

  23. @HSK

    I doubt there will be a spike. People are wary of traveling and being stuck with restrictions on both traveling somewhere and coming back home. When in-person jobs and schooling return, I expect a rule that bars people from vacationing in far flung places for infection control policies.

    People are also saving up their money, more and more. Savings rates are at an all time high. Its smarter to save up, cause even in a “stable” job sector, who knows with this pandemic.

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