Sun sets on superjumbo: Last Airbus A380 rolls off the production line

It’s massive and fun to fly in, but expensive to run and not as nimble as rivals

The last bolts have been fastened to the last Airbus A380, marking the end of manufacture for the world's most capacious passenger aircraft.

The European aerospace corporation marked the occasion with a post noting that the plane is the 123rd A380 in the fleet of Dubai-based carrier Emirates, and the 251st of its type.

The A380 debuted in July 2005, and gave the world the first true double-decker jetliner (the Boeing 747's top deck only extended part of the length of the fuselage). Despite pre-launch hype that size would see carriers equip planes with gyms or playrooms for kids, most went for seats-a-plenty – often more than 500, across four classes.

The plane went into commercial service in October 2007 on a flight from Singapore to Sydney.

Your correspondent's home is under the flightpath for Sydney's runway 16R/34L and I saw that first flight come in. I was immediately struck by the plane's bulk and impressive acoustic properties.

Airbus designed the A380 to fly routes on which landing slots were scarce, so that airlines could maximise their capacity and revenue. The plane also had massive range, so could fly very long sectors such as Dubai to San Francisco or Sydney to Dallas. Your correspondent flew that sector on several occasions and found it convenient but exhausting.

While the A380 was capable of mighty feats, it was expensive to operate because its four engines and colossal size meant it was bloody heavy! Airlines operate on thin margins, and while the A380 was justifiably popular among passengers, it could be hard to operate it profitably.

The plane was also challenged by nimbler rivals. Craft like the 787 and A350 can match it for range, and are far cheaper to operate. Such planes are also capable of using shorter runways found at smaller airports, making new routes possible and removing the need for a high-capacity plane to fly trunk routes.

Orders dried up. Then stopped.

In 2019 Airbus decided that lack of demand meant it could not continue to make the mega-liner.

Airbus' post states that Emirates plans to keep flying its A380s for decades – as do other airlines. But others have already quit the craft forever.

Yet your correspondent is surely far from alone in being one of millions who would happily fly on the plane once more, if international travel ever becomes easy and safe after this wretched pandemic. ®

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