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ANALYSIS: Is the A380 super jumbo at a cross-roads?

by ASC Staff on Jun 17, 2017


Since it entered commercial service in October 2007, the Airbus A380-800 has brought a long-lost sense of glamour back to travel.
Since it entered commercial service in October 2007, the Airbus A380-800 has brought a long-lost sense of glamour back to travel.

By Shayan Shakeel, Aviation Business ME

Since it entered commercial service in October 2007, the Airbus A380-800 has brought a long-lost sense of glamour back to travel.

Its three-room suites feature private showers and buttery leather armchairs, and in-flight lounges sport bartenders mixing bespoke cocktails.

A broad staircase reminiscent of a 1920s ocean liner links the two decks. Some airlines even made promises of kitting out their new superjumbos with casinos and gyms–although none have actually done so.

Incontestably, the superjumbo draws interest. But will it draw more airlines? And considering the white-hot market for next-generation large twinjets like the Airbus A350-1000 which affords much better economics, is there a future for the A380–including the notional re-engined A380neo and stretched A380-900?

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That’s the million dollar question. So far, financially speaking, the aircraft has been a gamble of grand proportions, and carriers are finding it tough to fill in turbulent economic times.

Even before the A380 first lifted off the runway, with 50,000 onlookers at France’s Toulouse-Blagnac Airport on April 27, 2005, there were questions about the A380’s viability.

The bottom line remains fragile: Singapore Airlines has opted not to extend the lease for its first early-build Airbus A380 after only 10 years of flying it.

Malaysian Airlines too has not been able to draw enough traffic to fill the half-dozen A380s it had bought, putting light on something long dreaded in the industry: the lack of a second hand market for the very large aircraft (VLA)–despite attempts to make them more commercially viable such as incorporating 700 seats, dedicated to transporting Muslim travellers on the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, into a cabin that once set new standards of spaciousness.

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