By Neechi Marupa-Ombima ‘20
The Airbus A380, a massive piece of technological mastery that flies through our skies has been cut from production by Airbus after less than 15 years in service. If you don’t know what an Airbus A380 is, it was the first modern aircraft to have two floors of seating available to passengers. The A380 is also the largest commercial jetliner employed by any airline for transporting passengers, surpassing Boeing’s 747 which only had a quarter of a second floor. To further understand one of the greatest technological feats of our generation one should look to the dimensions of this super jumbo. The weight of the A380 is probably the most shocking statistic as it comes in at a staggering 632 tons, a gravity defying number. Additionally, the A380 is nearly 80 ft tall and 240 ft long making it one of the largest moving man-made structures in the world. Not only is the A380 impressive in size but also in technological landscape.The jet is one of the most advanced aircraft of its time and utilizes semi-autonomous operation. This type of operation meant that pilot input was aided significantly through the use of computers allowing for near perfect accuracy in all stages of flight. For example, with the assistance of radar guided autopilot the A380 could line up its approach onto the runway for landing, or navigate through stormy weather without the pilots hands actively moving the joystick. Overall, the A380 was great at what it did; it transported hundreds of millions of people throughout its existence and became a passenger favorite for aircraft choice, so why did Airbus cancel its production?
The reason for the cease in production is probably a lot more complicated then the general public can know, but the main reason has to do with the UAE airline Emirates. Emirates is the largest operator of the A380 since the airline first took delivery in 2008. The airline currently operates 108 of the jet with 54 more pending delivery. To put that number into perspective the next airline, Singapore Airlines, has only 24 A380s in its fleet. Therefore, when Emirates decided to reduce its incoming order from 54 new A380s to only 14 Airbus decided to cut the A380 program. Moreover, since Airbus relies so heavily on Emirate’s orders of the A380 to keep the program alive once Emirates cut its order their was very little hope left as each aircraft cost over 400 million dollars to make. For Emirates the move to decrease their A380 order is pretty complex. However, one clear and large part of the decision is the movement of the aviation industry. For the past couple decades, big international airlines like Emirates established hubs where almost any flight operated by the airline would pass through. Emirates’ hub is located in Dubai and Emirates like other airlines used their hub to concentrate passenger traffic and operate its flights through a hub and spoke system where new routes would all originate from the hub. However, in recent years with the introduction of more fuel efficient aircraft like the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350, the hub and spoke system is becoming phased out of many airlines. Instead, with these new aircraft with much longer operating ranges due to more advanced engine systems, a direct route system is being employed by more and more airlines. The direct route system allows access for the most lucrative customer base of business travelers who prefer going directly from point a to b rather than passing through a hub with a long layover. Additionally, the direct route system saves airlines not only fuel cost but also promotional costs as less of an effort is needed to promote the sale of 300 seats on the 787 compared to the 500+ seats of the A380. Ultimately, Emirates’ reasons for cutting their order are definitely valid as the company was underperforming in profits compared to its competitors, and the decision will send the airline and the future of commercial aviation in the right direction