March 24, 2021 / It is the end of a story begun 16 years ago, when the first Airbus A380 was rolled out of the manufacturer’s Toulouse facility. Sixteen years are not so many, considering the importance of the project. And, for sure, at the beginning of the millennium, Airbus has envisioned a much longer life for the Superjumbo production line.
Truth is that, apart from the huge orders from Emirates (EK), the A380 started slow and finished even slower. Just a handful of airlines had the financial tools and the traffic demand to justify the acquisition of such a giant aircraft. Beside Emirates and its Gulf siblings Qatar Airways (QR) and Etihad Airways (EY), which were obliged to get a few samples to stay on pace with their bigger and richer competitor, a mere eleven airlines added the A380 to their fleets: three in Europe – British Airways (BA), Lufthansa (LH) and Air France (AF) -, one in Oceania – Qantas (QF) – and seven in Asia: Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Korean Air, Asiana and All Nippon Airways.
As the Covid pandemic spread worldwide, the double-decker has been the first type to be parked and one year later only Emirates and China Southern are flying it. Air France dismissed all its fleet, while Lufthansa is still deciding if to keep just a few samples for post-Covid.
While not as beautiful as the Boeing 747, the A380 dimensions allowed for a level of passenger comfort never reached before: the noise of its engines was barely audible inside the cabin and every manoeuvre including take-offs and landings was the smoothest. Its generous dimensions allowed for some of the most luxurious First Class cabins to be installed (with real showers featured by Emirates), including the most luxurious one in commercial aviation: The Residence by Etihad, a three-rooms small apartment in the air.
F-WWSH (which will be A6-EVS in Emirates fleet), was the 251st A380 to leave Toulouse bound for Airbus’ Hamburg facility, where it is going to receive paint work and interiors (including Emirates’ new Premium Economy), before being ready for delivery. The Dubai-based carrier, which will have 123 of the type in the fleet once the final five aircraft will enter its fleet including A6-EVS, announced a few days ago that it will fly its A380s to up to 18 destinations worldwide, next summer.
In Toulouse, the closure of the A380 production line means its conversion into one for the A321, of which Airbus has a backlog counting 2,979 airframes as of the end of February 2021 (out of some 7,100 aircraft still to be delivered). (Photo Wikimedia Commons / Lars Steffens)