The last Airbus A380 flies the nest. - Modern Airliners
Emirates Airbus A380-861

The last Airbus A380 flies the nest.

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And just like that the dream is over. On 16 December 2021, a grey Hamburg evening, the last ever Airbus A380 Super Jumbo lifted off, did a circuit of the city and flew east to its new home. What began as the next big thing in aviation, the Airbus A380 fell well short of expectations for European plane-maker, Airbus. The last Airbus A380 brought the total deliveries of this airliner to 250, well short of the 1,000 that Airbus had envisaged in the planning stage.

Singapore was the launch customer for the A380 back in October 2007.
Singapore was the launch customer for the A380 back in October 2007, with the first route being between Singapore and Sydney. It was an exciting time in air travel with the future looking assured for this new arrival. Little did we know.

So what happened? How did Airbus get it so wrong? Well, perhaps it wasn’t a matter of getting it so wrong so much as coming in late. When the first A380 was rolled out in front of dignitaries to huge fanfare in 2005, it was already 2 years late. Other technologies had also been progressing and there was a ground swell toward the new more economical twins jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner followed by the Airbus A350.

A matter of succession.

Over the last decades, go to any international airport and you would be greeted by the iconic tails of Boeing 747s poking up into the sky. The 747, Queen of Skies, had been the very symbol of international travel for decades. The design of the 747 hadn’t changed for quite some time and I’m sure that Airbus saw this as an opportunity to fill this niche of the market with a brand new updated very large passenger transport aircraft. What they couldn’t have foreseen is the demise, or at least shrinkage of that sector of the market.

Airbus A380 tails at London Heathrow. These became as common a sight as the Boeing 747.
Airbus A380 tails of Emirates, QANTAS and Singapore Airlines at London’s Heathrow Airport. It looked very much like the common sight of giant Boeing 747 tails adorning international terminals would be replaced by those of Airbus. Unfortunately it seems that the A380 will never reach that level of market penetration.

The Airbus A380 is very popular with passengers and many will arrange their travel plans to ensure they get to ride on it. For airline bean counters, not so much. Airlines were finding that the new twin jets were more economical on all but the very busiest routes. They were also more eco friendly, so opting for these just made more sense. The big shake up really came when Covid-19 reared it’s ugly head. Countries closed borders and travel came to a standstill. Airlines sent their aircraft to desert or other storage facilities with little knowledge of if or when they would ever be used again. For some, it was the end of the road. Airlines like Lufthansa and Air France retired their A380 fleet.

So who got the last A380?

So back to the Hamburg sky. Where in the east was the last A380 going?

There is one airline which has put great faith in the A380. Emirates Airlines of Dubai is by far the largest customer of the A380 and aircraft registration A6-EVS was on its way to Dubai to become the 129th A380 in the Emirates fleet.

Tim Clark of Emirates firmly believes that the popularity of the A380 with passengers will carry it well into the future. Considering that much of the Emirates network is medium to long haul, perhaps the economics of the A380 still stacks up. One thing you can count on is that you will still be able to fly on an A380 for many years to come.

Lufthansa Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8
Lufthansa took an each way bet with their choice of giant passenger transport, buying both the Airbus A380 as well as the Boeing 747-8i. Boeing have also had little success with the 747i which is the passenger version, the cargo version, the 747-8F, however, had better success. This all due to an each way bet by Boeing at creation of the original 747.

What of the huge assembly buildings in Toulouse, France? Now the assembly line has fallen silent, Airbus has plans to use some the space for assembly of their narrow body aircraft. With new orders coming in, such as the one from QANTAS, it is hoped that workers will be redeployed for the most part.

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