The Air Current

It’s over: In the end it was the market, not the market forecast, that determined the fate of the Airbus A380. Emirates airline ended its deliberation about the future of its largest airplane, cancelling an order for 39 A380 aircraft and orders 40 A330-900neos and 30 A350-900s in their place.

As was widely expected, the change has brought the end of the Airbus superjumbo. “As a result of this decision we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years. This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021,” said Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders said in a statement.

Related: Boeing 787 deal in jeopardy, too, as Emirates weighs killing A380 for A330neo

The timing of the decision is notable given the rolling leadership succession at Airbus. This places the “painful” decision to sunset the A380’s at the end of Enders’ tenure, not the first major decision of Guillaume Faury’s administration, which is set to begin later this spring. With its demise, Airbus will only offer two engine airplanes for the first time since 1986 just prior to the launch of the A340.

Emirates has 14 A380s remaining on order and will eventually have a total of 123 in its fleet at the conclusion of the production run. Given the Emirates decision and the likelihood orders from Air Accord and lessor Amedeo will materialize, the A380 production run should end with approximately 251 deliveries since 2007.

Before it combined the A380 and A350-1000 into a single “extra large” demand category in 2018, Airbus in 2017 was of the belief that 1,410 superjumbos would be needed over two decades. In 2007 that stood at 1,283.

Related: Airbus and Rolls-Royce plot Ultrafan for A350neo

The decision by Emirates came almost in parallel with a similar decision by Etihad Airways to significantly scale back its own committed orderbook. It will now take five Airbus A350-1000s (down from 62), 26 A321neos and six Boeing 777-9s (from 35) “over the coming years”. -J.O.

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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