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Airbus to slow A380 production

written by WOFA | July 14, 2016

Qantas's international opertation is performing better. (Seth Jaworski)
Qantas has 12 Airbus A380s in its fleet. (Seth Jaworski)

Airbus will trim the production rate of its flagship A380 to one aircraft a month from 2018.

The airframe confirmed the rate reduction at the Farnborough Air Show on Tuesday (European time). In 2015, Airbus delivered 27 A380s to its airline customers.

Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier said the manufacturer remained committed to the aircraft, citing its popularity among the travelling public.

“We are establishing a new target for our industrial planning, meeting current commercial demand but keeping all our options open to benefit from future A380 markets,” Bregier said in a statement.

“We are maintaining, innovating and investing in the A380, keeping the aircraft the favourite of passengers, the airlines and airports – today and in the future. The A380 is here to stay.”

Sales of the world’s biggest passenger aircraft have been slow, with carriers preferring twin-engine variants to serve their long-haul routes.

Currently, there were 193 A380s in service. The program has garnered 319 total orders since it launched, leaving the backlog at 126 aircraft. However, there was some uncertainty around whether some of those orders, such as eight for Qantas and six for Virgin Atlantic, would ever be delivered.


Airbus has attempted to improve the breakeven rate of the A380, including installing a fourth final assembly line for its A320 Family into a building at its Hamburg-Finkenwerder facility that was originally slated for A380 production. It is projecting for a breakeven rate of 20 A380s next year.

It has also tried to boost sales – the list price of the A380 is about US$400 million, although airlines tend to receive discounts – through improvements to the efficiency of the cabin (i.e. adding more seats) and boosting the operational reliability of the aircraft through longer periods between maintenance checks.

And Airbus chief operating officer Tom Williams said recently low fuel prices could also encourage airlines to order the aircraft.

“The fuel price, as it is today, helps us in presenting the risk and reward ratio of the A380. That is one of the other things that we are going to push really hard,” Williams told reporters at the Airbus Innovation Days media briefings at the end of May.

“This is an aircraft that will still come back.”

(Read more about the A380 in the July edition of Australian Aviation magazine, on sale now.)


  • Dave


    Anyone know how longer periods between maintenance checks improves operational reliability? Wouldn’t it be the other way around?

  • Bill


    Airbus need to seriously reinvigorate the A380. A neo version probably won’t be enough to draw customers to buying the aircraft, and unless Airbus do something drastic, I doubt the A380 will be in production much past the current order book. Maybe it’s time they built the A380F or a high density/high cycle version for the Asian market.

  • deano


    When will Airbus realize that the A380 simply is not big enough
    A350s and 777s carry fewer passengers, but at a more economical rate
    Just look at the A380, it looks short and stumpy, out of proportion to it’s oversized wings and tail, it is begging for a significant stretch, then perhaps airlines will buy it….

  • Christopher Campbell


    Richard Brandon even mentioned at the Virgin Atlantic A350 press conference at the Farnborough Airshow they would be interested in an improved A380 if Airbus stretched it (gave it new engines and improved the aerodynamics.)

  • Adrian P


    Time for a high density short haul option for high density routes.

    853 seats is a train load of passengers, beats high speed train any day no signal faults, no blocked tracks with broken down trains, no vehicle crossings, no ripping up the country, versatile route structure.

    Trains so 19th century.

  • Ben


    I’ve always thought that the A380 was never really a revolutionary aircraft. It doesn’t really carry that many more passengers than a 747. Yes it is capable of carrying over 500, but not many airlines actually put in that many seats. So when you think that the 747 can comfortably carry over 400, the economies of scale are just not there with the A380. The 747 was a revolution over the 707 as it carried about 3 times as many passengers. However for the A380 to be equally as revolutionary over the 747, it would need to have a passenger capacity of about 1200 in a 3 or 4 class layout. Now that would be impossible – It would probably need to easily be twice it’s current size. Yes it feels a bit roomier and quieter than a 747 but at the end of the day it still only carries slightly more passengers, slightly further and at the same speed as a 747 – So I’d hardly describe it as a game changer. It might be a passenger favourite, but it has hardly lived up to the hype. Efficiency will win the argument with airline execs any day of the week. Hence the success of the 777, 787 and A350. I think the days of the A380 and sadly, the 747, are numbered.

  • Tom P.


    A380 is a great airplane and a marvelous engineering feat but looks like Airbus missed the boat on timing. Read a very interesting book by a retired Boeing executive Mr. Pandey “How Boeing Defied the Airbus Challenge.” According to the book, A380 was designed to prevail over the B747 but the success of twins on long range operations changed the rule of the game. It appears changes in international aviation regulations called ETOPS or Extended Twin Operations is slowly making the A380 and the B747 passenger airplanes obsolete while the twins such as the B777, B787, A330 and A350 dominate on the long range routes. What a pity!

  • GAGA


    The seat pitch and width in economy is listed as 31″ and 17.5″ for both the A380 and 747-400 (Qantas).

    Yet Airbus boasts that the A380 offers 50% more floor space but only 30% more seats so you get more space per seat.

    So where on earth is that extra space? Those figures say to me that the A380 means 20% wastage. I’ve never actually been in a A380 but judging by those figures and the fact Qatar was able to put “apartments” into “unused cavities” without affecting seating capacity, the A380 has not been designed properly space wise and is carrying around extra bulk that doesn’t provide extra revenue seating.

  • Jason


    So many experts…why aren’t you all working for Airbus or the airlines?

  • Adrian P


    We don’t work for them because they employ experts not lateral thinkers.

  • Ben


    @Jason – I’m quite up for a career change if Airbus or the airlines want to give me a job 🙂

    I’ll admit I’m an enthusiast more than an expert but the numbers don’t lie. If the A380 was a viable proposition in it’s current form it would have sold more. It really only works to make a profit if it is filled to capacity. It does have some degree of success in the large slot constrained airports like Heathrow, but as I said it is hardly revolutionary. EK seem to be the only airline that can make it work. All the other airlines – maybe bar SQ and LH, seem to only have token fleets. Even QF have their last 8 orders postponed, despite needing to replace their remaining 747s. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any new orders from anyone expect EK and even they’re making noise about needing a NEO version. Whereas the big twins (777, 787 and A350) do work and that is why their order books are a lot healthier than the A380. Just over 300 orders, 16 years after initial launch and 9 years since service entry is not what I’d call successful. Compare that to the 777 and 787 that both have well over 1,000 orders each and the A350 at over 800. Also the 787 and A350 were launched after the A380. The numbers speak for themselves. Even the 747 has sold over 1,500 (Although admittedly that is for all types, over nearly 50 years) However Boeing have constantly improved the 747 over the years, something which Airbus has not yet done with the A380.

  • John Reid


    No matter what the published seat widths, my backside feels the difference between “wedge” on a 747 and “wiggle” on an A380. However, I agree that the 380 program needs an improved version to make much more progress. The design is over-winged and stubby, and clearly designed for a more-seats stretch – bring it on, I say! Better fuel burn would help too, but per-seat burn would surely be improved if there were more seats.

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