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Airports

Going but not gone: A380 maintains a pulse for hubs

21 May 2019
Emirates operates the A380 from its home base of Dubai International Airport (Concourse C pictured). Source: Dar Al Handasah

Major international airports are unlikely to be adversely affected by the Airbus announcement that it will cease production of the large widebody

Hub airports are assessing the potential consequences of the decision by Airbus to cancel production from 2021 of its A380 large widebody.

Faced with a reduction in orders from major airline customer Emirates, Airbus announced on 14 February that it will wind down the A380 production programme. It noted that Emirates was cutting its A380 orderbook by 39 aircraft from 162 to 123 (including 14 in production for delivery in 2019–21).

Airbus CEO Tom Enders argued there is “no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years”. That said, he claimed the A380 remains popular and “will still roam the skies for many years” with full support from Airbus. Indeed, Japanese carrier ANA on 20 March celebrated delivery of its first A380.

However, the decision to halt production of the aircraft means that airports in the 2020s and 2030s will demand fewer A380-specific airfield reconfigurations, special boarding bridges and ground support equipment.

The first A380 was delivered (to Singapore Airlines) in 2007. John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting, said that the aircraft may have been launched too early, before traffic constraints on airports pushed airlines towards buying very large aircraft. However, with fuel costs and emissions controls an increasing concern, he doubted that major aircraft manufacturers would return to building four-engine models, as two-engine aircraft (such as the A350 or B-777X) are more energy-efficient. Moreover, the rise in long-haul low-cost airlines means that established carriers that were considering the A380 now face more competition and may struggle with load factors on such a large aircraft. Other aircraft types also offer more cargo space – a consistent weakness for the A380.

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