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Airbus’s A380 program was dealt yet another blow this week as Qantas canceled a long-standing order for eight of the super jumbos. Recent months have seen the backlog of orders dwindling down as more airlines cancel orders. Airbus had netted only four orders for the A380 in the whole of 2018, a number that included Emirates’ lifeline order for the behemoth aircraft. Airbus delivered only 12 of the massive jets to operators in 2018.

The plane manufacturer’s official order backlog for the A380 officially stands at 79, broken down by airline as follows:

A380 Official Backlog: 79

  • Emirates: 53
  • Amedeo: 20
  • Air Accord: 3
  • ANA: 3

While the official order backlog currently stands at 79, we can safely say that at least 23 of planes will never get built. The orders for Amedeo and Air Accord will never actually take to the air. Amedeo, a leasing company, is already struggling to find a use for its current A380 fleet, with no takers to be found. They have delayed their A380 order indefinitely. Air Accord, which appears to be a shell company used to take delivery of aircraft for defunct Russian airline Transaero, will most certainly never actually take delivery. So why are these orders still on the books? It would seem Airbus is happy to keep the orders around simply to make the backlog numbers look better than they actually are.

An Air France A380 takes off from New York JFK in July 2014 (Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy)
An Air France A380 takes off from New York JFK in July 2014 (Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy)

The Emirates A380 order is also in question at this point. Just last week Airbus confirmed that it was in talks with Emirates about its current A380 order. The doubt stems from the fact that Emirates hasn’t completed contracts with engine maker Rolls Royce to outfit the planes with its required four powerplants. Emirates hasn’t been happy with the performance of the current Rolls Royce engines. This calls into question if the lifeline order will even be completed.

The issue for Airbus is twofold. Not only are new orders not being placed, but the secondary market is uninterested in the plane as well. As lessors have planes returned, no one is stepping up to take over operation of the jets. Recently we have even seen leasing companies sending A380s off to the scrap heap.

If you are looking to catch a ride on an A380 before it goes the way of the dodo bird, you have some options from a number of operators:

If all of the current issues with the A380 program leads to Airbus stopping production, the A380 would be one of the shortest-run production commercial aircraft in history. Certainly not what Airbus had in mind when it made its estimated initial investment of $25-30 billion in the A380 program.

Richard Aboulafia, VP of analysis for the Teal Group, who has closely followed the A380 program for years, is not optimistic. His outlook for the program over the past few years has been bleak to say the least but his current opinion leaves little room for hope:

“It’s dead. It was born to die. Simply the dumbest program of modern times,” he told TPG in an email.

For now it seems it’s just a matter of time before Airbus will announce it’s ending the program. The bigger question at this point is just how many of the aircraft in the order backlog will realistically take to the skies.

H/T: Reuters

Featured image by Shutterstock.

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