Tuesday, January 18

Aviation. The very last A380 left the Airbus factories

It was the last. Airbus delivered the 123rd A380 on Thursday, December 16, ordered by Emirates Airlines. The A380 registered A6-EVS (MSN272) flew from the Airbus facilities at Hamburg-Finkenwerder for London before returning to its base at Dubai airport.

A heart drawn in the sky

The day before his departure, the last test flight was carried out by Airbus. To mark the event, the pilots drew a particular flight plan, in the shape of a heart. A wink which could be followed all over the world through flight tracking applications, such as FlightRadar.

This latest delivery was bittersweet for both Airbus and Emirates. Because if this gigantic machine has seduced travelers with its comfort, the airlines have suffered.

Un superjumbo record

The A380 is the symbol of the times. When it was launched commercially in 2000 as the A3XX, airlines were looking to carry the most passengers at the same time, as demand was so high. Until now, the largest carrier is the Boeing 747: depending on the configuration, it can carry between 416 and 660 passengers. The very large carrier, or “superjumbo”, of Airbus can contain between 407 and 853 (615 in 2 classes). In addition, its range is nearly 2000km more than its competitor.

In 2005, the A380 was presented to the general public. Its first flight took place on April 27, at Toulouse-Blagnac airport, breaking the world record for the heaviest civil vehicle to take off. However, with its 421 tonnes, it is only loaded to 75% of its capacity. Fourteen airlines are ordering it.

The A380 is a European aircraft: the different pieces come from the UK, Spain, France and Germany, it is assembled and tested in Toulouse, then sent to Hamburg for commercial fit-out, paints and final tests.

Space and profitability problems

However, the A380 quickly faces manufacturing difficulties, leading to heavy delays in delivery, or even cancellations. In addition, airports must be able to have enough space to accommodate this juggernaut. Of course, Airbus has made sure to fit within the distances required for the 747, but not all airports have these capabilities.

The 2010s made matters worse. The economic crisis is global, people travel less. The superjumbo is not profitable for the airlines: it is expensive to buy, it uses a lot of kerosene and it pollutes more than the others. Several fleets are announcing the end of its operation. What pushes Airbus to throw in the towel in 2019.

185 Airbus A380 still in flight

The Covid-19 has worsened the already fragile situation for air carriers. Thus Air France-KLM had decided to stop the operation of its 9 planes by the end of 2022 for lack of profitability, but the pandemic has accelerated things and, le 20 mai 2020, the final stop is announced.

There will be no more A380s. The last left first from Toulouse for Hamburg on March 17, 2021, then from Germany on December 16. However, we have not finished traveling with it. Because since 2007, 249 planes were delivered. Emirates Airlines has 123, Singapore Airlines 24, Lufthanse 14, Qantas 12 and British Airways 12 as well. Not all of them are in regular service.

For its latest copy, Emirates has put in the form: private suites with first-class showers, a bar (a classic from the A380), premium cabins and the latest video systems on all the seats. A high-end last-ditch for an extraordinary superjumbo.


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