Airbus will stop making the iconic A380, pulling the plug on its iconic superjumbo jet that once promised to revolutionize commercial air travel, but later failed to deliver, thanks to the new realities of the aviation industry.
The European plane maker said Thursday that it will stop delivering A380s in 2021 after its key customer, Dubai-based airline Emirates, cut its orders for the world's largest airliner, report CNN and the BBC.
"It's a painful decision," Airbus CEO Tom Enders said during a conference call with analysts. "We've invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources and a lot of sweat into this aircraft."
"But obviously we need to be realistic," he added. "With the decision of Emirates to reduce orders, our order backlog is not sufficient to sustain production."
The decision could hit as many as 3,500 jobs at the manufacturer, whose operations span four major European countries, over the next three years.
The A380's future had been in doubt for several years as orders dwindled. But in a statement on Thursday, Airbus said the "painful" decision to end production was made after Emirates reduced its latest order. The Dubai-based airline is cutting its overall A380 fleet size from 162 to 123.
Emirates said it would take delivery of 14 further A380s over the next two years, but has also ordered 70 of Airbus' smaller A330 and A350 models.
"Emirates has been a staunch supporter of the A380 since its very inception," said the airlines' chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum. "While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the programme could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation," he added.
When Airbus's A380 first took off it was hailed as a technological marvel that would meet airlines' needs for a new large aircraft to connect the world's crowded airport hubs – London, New York, Dubai, Tokyo. Airbus said the market for the giant planes would be 1,500. After today's decision to end production, it will have made just over 250.
In hindsight, airlines were already turning their back on very large aircraft when the A380 made its debut. Advances in engine technology meant planes no longer needed four engines to fly long distances - and carriers were able to use a new generation of light, fuel-efficient, twin-engined aircraft to link secondary cities, bypassing the crowded hubs altogether.
Image credit: Getty Images/BBC