Effective this month, Boeing has cut back production of its iconic 747 to just six planes a year, as we noted several months ago when we speculated that the big plane might be on its way out of the aviation scene altogether in the months and years ahead. And now there is talk that the 747’s only double-decker rival, the Airbus A380, might be nearing a similar fate.
The latest blow to the A380 came from Singapore Airlines, which has decided not to renew a lease for one of its A380 after it expires about a year from now. The airline operates 19 of the planes.
The Wall Street Journal noted that the rejection of a single leased plane isn’t a huge blow to Airbus, but represents “a symbolic hit” for the A380, for which it said Airbus has been struggling to find customers.
The manufacturer said recently that its A380 production will be reduced from 27 planes a year in 2015 to just 12 a year by 2018. “The backlog of A380s to be delivered has eroded during years of no or few orders,” the Journal noted. It said that Airbus was expected to start losing money on the A380 once again under the lower production rate, and suggested that not even the manufacturer’s existing backlog of scheduled production is completely safe since some airlines are canceling their earlier orders.
A recent article in TheStreet.com cited one aerospace expert who noted that the international aviation market’s interest has shifted from ultra-large passenger jets like the 747 and A380 to somewhat smaller, newer twin-aisle jets like the 787 and A350 that are more fuel-efficient and can be deployed more profitably on longer non-stop routes. He said the sweet spot now is for planes that carry 300 to 370 passengers.
The Airbus A380s currently in use carry from 400 to 538 passengers in a three-class configuration, although the plane is certified to carry up to 853 in a one-class layout, and Emirates has come out with a 615-passenger version with two classes.
Manufacturers are turning to larger versions of the 787, 777 and A350 for the years ahead, a trend that could siphon even more business away from the double-deckers from airlines that want aircraft with more capacity, the article noted.
Readers: Could you live comfortably in a world without double-decker jumbo jets? What do you think of the A380?
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