Airbus Delivers Last Superjumbo Airplane

    16 December 2021

    Airbus delivered its final A380 superjumbo airplane to Dubai's Emirates Airline on Thursday. The plane has been in production for 14 years.

    The A380 is the world's largest passenger airplane. It can seat up to 500 people on two levels. It includes things such as bars and showers in first class.

    An Airbus A380 takes off after Airbus makes its last ever delivery of an A380 to Emirates in Hamburg-Finkenwerder, Germany, December 16, 2021. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
    An Airbus A380 takes off after Airbus makes its last ever delivery of an A380 to Emirates in Hamburg-Finkenwerder, Germany, December 16, 2021. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)

    Production of the plane ended after just 272 were built. The company first had plans to produce 1,000 or more.

    Airbus is an airplane-making conglomerate made up of separate companies in Britain, France, Germany and Spain. It decided to stop producing the A380 in 2019, as airlines became more likely to purchase smaller models.

    Emirates Airline is by far Airbus' largest buyer. The airline still believes in the superjumbo jet's ability to appeal to passengers. Even though no more A380s will be built, Emirates will keep flying them for years. But many airlines disagree and stopped flying the A380 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Emirates Airline president Tim Clark disagrees with critics who say the days of large four-engine planes like the A380 are in the past.

    "I don't share that view at all," Clark recently told reporters. "And I still believe there is a place for the A380." He added that the traveling public "absolutely (loves) that airplane."

    Talks to build the plane began in 2000. It was meant to be Airbus' 21st-century answer to Boeing's 1960s jumbo jet, the 747. The A380 has quiet Rolls Royce engines placed far out on its long wings. The body of the plane is light and easy to control.

    The plane was a symbol around the world of European technology. But it was costly to make and did not become very popular with airlines. The A380 lost the company $522 million in 2018. Airbus decided to halt production a year later.

    In January, Boeing announced that it would stop producing the 747 in 2022, after more than 51 years. The 747 is credited for changing the airline industry. But the company has been struggling to recover from production failures of its 737 Max plane, which led to deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019.

    The first delivery of the A380 came in 2007, more than two years later than expected. When Emirates got its first A380 a year later, the financial crisis hit. Sales for the biggest planes fell.

    Airlines seemed more interested in mid-size planes for shorter trips. Even on longer trips, airlines seemed to prefer smaller planes that were easier to fill with passengers.

    Boeing began selling models of its smaller 787 Dreamliner, which was later followed by the Airbus A350.

    "There was a slowing down of appetite and enthusiasm. We didn't share that view; we put this great (A380) aircraft to work," Clark said at an airlines meeting.

    He added, "We have what I think is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever flown."

    I'm Dan Novak.

    Dan Novak adapted this story based on reports from Reuters and The Associated Press. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    deliver v. to take something to a person or place

    jumbo adj. very large

    bar n. a counter where alcoholic drinks are served

    shower n. a device that produces a spray of water for you to stand under and wash your body

    conglomerate n. a large business that is made of different kinds of companies

    view n. an opinion or way of thinking about something

    symbol n. an action, object, event, etc., that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality

    appetite n. a physical desire for food

    enthusiasm n. strong excitement about something