Last A380 takes off on maiden flight.

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March 19, 2021
A380
The final A380 off the production line makes its maiden flight. Photo: Airbus.

The final A380 to come off the production line has made its maiden flight in Toulouse.

Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury posted a photograph of the aircraft, MSN 272,  on Twitter, congratulating workers for their contributions over the years.

“Looking forward to supporting this iconic aircraft & its customers for many years, delivering best-in-class passenger experience,” he said.

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As the tail indicates, the aircraft is headed to Dubai-based Emirates to join the world’s biggest fleet of double-decker superjumbos.

The A380 is a passenger favorite but the four-engine behemoth fell prey to the rise of more fuel-efficient twin-engine aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.

Airbus succumbed to the inevitable in February 2019, when it announced it would cease production of the superjumbo due to a lack of new orders.

The coronavirus has also taken its toll on the aircraft.

Many A380s are currently in storage with airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa deciding to retire the aircraft permanently. Other carriers are reducing their A380 fleets as they favor smaller long-haul aircraft.

But Emirates has predicted its fleet of 123 A380s will be back in operation by 2022 as travel picks up with the distribution of COVID vaccines.

Revealing the airline’s new premium economy class in a newly delivered superjumbo in December, Emirates president Sir Tim Clark said the Gulf carrier’s A380s remained one of the most “sought after travel experiences in the skies”.

“While others cut back, Emirates is working hard to restore the products and services that we’ve had to suspend or adjust due to pandemic precautions and introduce new offerings and enhancements,” he said.

A380
Emirates’ new premium economy.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce is another who sees a continuing place for the A380 in his airline’s operations, although he has said he does not expect it to return to service until 2023.

Qantas has written down the value of its planes and believes they can fly profitably to slot-constrained airports such as Los Angeles.

Whether it returns all its superjumbos to service remains to be seen but there has been recent speculation some could return earlier than originally expected.

Others that have indicated plans for the aircraft include Singapore Airlines and British Airways.