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Airbus Will End Production of Its Superjumbo A380 Airplanes in 2021

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The Airbus A380 is known for its wide-body, double-decker design that can fit up to 800 passengers.

Photo by AP/Michael Probst

The Airbus A380 is known for its wide-body, double-decker design that can fit up to 800 passengers.

Celebrated as an engineering marvel, the largest passenger airplane in the world will cease being produced in 2021 after demand from airlines dried up.

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Just 14 years after the superjumbo A380 made its maiden flight, Airbus announced this week that it is ending production of the double-decker, four-jet airplane for good.

As more and more airlines cancelled orders for the largest passenger airplane in existence, Airbus CEO Tom Enders admitted on Thursday that the 800-seat jet was too big for the industry’s current demand.

Created in the early 2000s as Airbus’s answer to the 400-some passenger 747 Boeing from the 1960s, the A380 was celebrated by passengers for its construction and design. With four Rolls-Royce engines and carbon-fiber technology to make its body lighter and more maneuverable, the plane’s double-decker design allowed for everything from bars to showers.

The bar in the first-class section on board an Airbus A380 passenger plane of Emirates Airline
But the plane’s size meant that airports needed to adjust the size of their runways and gates to accommodate the large A380. (JetBlue even has plans to expand its Terminal 5 footprint in upcoming years at JFK so that it can build wide-body gates to handle the A380s its partner Emirates flies.)

As air travel continues to expand to more regional routes in smaller airports, demand for superjumbo jets dried up as increasing orders for midsize planes came in. Even at larger airports that served more long-distance routes, airlines opted for smaller planes because they’re easier to fill than the 800-seat A380.

The final nail in the coffin for the A380 came recently when Emirates—the largest supporter of the plane—decided to transfer all current orders for the A380 to smaller A350 and A320 planes.

A double-decker Airbus A380 plane lands at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon in 2018.
While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the program could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of Emirates, told the Associated Press.

But this doesn’t mean the A380 will disappear from runways immediately. While Airbus is no longer accepting new orders for the planes, it will complete the last 17 orders of the jet in 2021, at which point production will end. Maintenance will also be provided for the more than 230 planes that are currently in service, so fans of the A380 will be able to fly the supersized planes on airlines including Emirates, Lufthansa, and Qantas for years to come.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

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