Airbus is scrapping the world’s largest commercial jet, the double-decker A380 superjumbo aircraft, over low patronage by major carriers.The “painful” decision puts up to 3,500 jobs at risk over the next three years. About 200 people face job uncertainty in Britain, with thousands more across the world as the aircraft is phased out by 2021.
The move comes just 12 years after the double-decker superjet first took to the skies as the UK’s challenger to United States (U.S.) company, Boeing.The A380 model has never turned a profit, and sales have slowed dramatically as airlines favour smaller, more nimble aircraft – and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner enjoyed greater success.
Critics of the A380 argued that the double-deckers are too large, leaving airlines with an impossible task of filling seats for commercial flights. Analyst Richard Aboulafia of Washington-based Teal Group, said its demise “was inevitable”, adding: “For Boeing, it has been a very long time since they needed to worry about the A380 as a competitive factor.”Rolls-Royce, which makes the model’s engines, has tried to reassure the industry amid the uncertainty by saying it is unlikely to affect its workers – but the British firm failed to rule it out.
Airbus announced the “painful” decision to scrap the A380 after Emirates, its biggest customer, slashed its orders by about a quarter – as the manufacturer faced a lack of orders with other airlines.Last month, Airbus had garnered 313 firm orders for the passenger version of the aircraft. Just 234 of those have been delivered and the firm’s original sales target was 700 planes.
The A380, which is produced by Bristol-based, Airbus UK, is made across Europe in Spain, France, Germany and Britain.The wings are made in the Broughton, north Wales, and Filton, near Bristol, then shipped to Toulouse, France, where the planes are assembled. Landing and fuel systems for the A380 are also worked on at Filton. Outgoing Airbus Chief Executive, Tom Enders, said the decision to scrap the model was “painful” and echoed critics, who believe the plane is too big to ensure profits.
“What we’re seeing here is the end of the large four-engine aircraft,” he said. “There has been speculation for years that we were 10 years too early, but probably we were 10 years too late, or more.”
On the impact on British jobs, Enders said: “It needs to be evaluated. It’s clear we make a lot of wings in Britain and a few wings for the A380.“Hopefully we can redeploy a significant number of our employees there and re-use also the infrastructure.”Enders said he was a “little more optimistic” on the government reaching a deal with the European Union after it was reported that Airbus is making contingency plans in case the UK leaves the bloc with no deal.
He added the firm intends to “plan for the worst as much as we can and hope for the best,” adding that Airbus is making contingency plans for a hard Brexit, including stockpiling certain components.
Incoming chief executive, Guillaume Faury, said: “We will work on securing the phase-out, and we will do this in close co-operation with our social partners and in a very responsible manner.”Airbus confirmed it hopes to redeploy a “significant” number of impacted staff to other aircraft programmes. Faury said: “We are in the phase of analysing the situation and will have consultations with our partners.” But he said contingency planning would “always be insufficient”.