The European aerospace group said it had made the “painful” decision to stop making the world’s largest superjumbo in 2021 after Emirates, the A380’s biggest customer, reduced an outstanding order for 53 planes to only 14.
Emirates will instead order 70 of the smaller A330 and A350 aircraft, underlining the trend towards smaller, more efficient aircraft that made the A380 unsustainable.
The cancellation of the A380 will affect the jobs of as many as 3,500 Airbus staff, including around 300 at its factory in Broughton, north Wales, which constructs the model’s wings.
The Broughton site has around 6,000 employees, while another 3,000 in Filton, near Bristol, work on landing gear and fuel systems for the A380. However, Airbus said a “significant number” of staff will move to production of other, more popular models and major job losses in the UK are not expected as a result of the announcement.
Rhys McCarthy, the national officer for aerospace at Unite, said the union is seeking assurances from Airbus that there will be no job losses. He added that companies in the A380 supply chain, including at Melrose’s GKN, are a “key concern”.
Tom Enders, Airbus’s outgoing chief executive, said the cancellation was “painful for us”. He said: “We have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years.”
Airbus said that more than 190 million passengers have flown in the A380 since the first plane rolled off the final assembly line in Toulouse, France, in 2007. However, the plane, which can theoretically carry as many as 800 passengers, has struggled for profitability as demand for mid-sized jets boomed.
The cancellation will add another element of uncertainty for the future of UK operations already threatened by the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. Enders last month decried “Brexiteers’ madness”, saying that future investment decisions would be influenced if Brexit led to significant trade frictions.
The end of the A380 may free up space at Airbus’s Toulouse and Hamburg facilities, where final assembly is currently carried out, giving them a boost in the competition for business with the UK.
The end of the A380 comes at a crucial time for Airbus as it takes on a new leadership team after losing out to US rival Boeing in the aircraft deliveries race in 2018. Guillaume Faury, a former helicopter engineer who became the president of Airbus’s commercial aircraft business in February 2018, will take over from Enders as chief executive in April.
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