Flight Plan

A380: How Airbus forecast misfired

| | | Updated on: Dec 26, 2021
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Sinks $25 billion in the process

Performing a manoeuver, the pilot drew a heart shape in the sky at 30,000 feet before the plane touched down at the Hamburg Finkenwerder airport, thereby drawing curtains on the world’s largest aircraft, the A380.

The final A380 being delivered to its largest customer, The Emirates, will mark the end of an era which saw its manufacturer, Airbus Industries face some unprecedented criticism for making an aircraft which critics claimed was unwieldy, cost too much and that there were far too less buyers for. The last one was true to a large extent. Since its launch in 2005, only about 250-odd A380s have been built, of which 249 have been delivered. Emirates has bought 123 of them, with each of them costing about $450 million. Airbus sunk nearly $25 billion into the project, which the aircraft maker claims can never be recouped. In 2000, Airbus had estimated that the world will require 1,235 Very Large Aircraft, a forecast which turned out to be way too ambitious.

Airbus 380 is one of the its kind. It can seat up to 800 passengers, while its wingspan is as large as a football ground. Its length is around 238 feet and needs a runway which is about 7,000 feet. Some of the international airports have had to carry out structural changes to accommodate the A380.

One of the main reasons for building the A380 was because the aviation world, at one point in time, was set to discard the hub and spoke model in favour of direct flights across the globe. Emirates, under its iconic president Sir Tim Clark, wanted to connect the world via its home base, Dubai. Sir Clark turned out to be A380s biggest advocate and Emirates Airlines, its biggest ambassador even though there was a barrage of criticism against the aircraft. But few bought his idea as can been seen from the declining number of orders from the rest of the airlines.

An Indian tycoon who was known for his flamboyance, was one of those who placed an order for 10 A380s. Dr Vijay Mallya, who is currently in London, firmly believed that his Kingfisher Airline would fly these super-jumbos across the continents. However, as we all know, his airline itself crash-landed for various reasons, dragging his dream down with it.

Published on December 26, 2021

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