Qantas cancels its 8 remaining A380 orders

by Geoffrey Thomas and Steve Creedy
615
February 07, 2019
Qantas A380
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Qantas has formally canceled its eight remaining Airbus A380 orders, leaving it with a fleet of 12 as technology and fuel economy catch up with the superjumbo.

The long-expected cancellation had been flagged previously and comes as Airbus looks to end the production of the giant of the skies after key customer Emirates indicated it would swap orders for more fuel-efficient Airbus aircraft such as the twin-engine A350 or A330.

The move means Airbus will update its order book to reflect the cancellation.

“Following discussions with Airbus, Qantas has now formalized its decision not to take eight additional A380s that were ordered in 2006,” Qantas said in a statement.

“These aircraft have not been part of the airline’s fleet and network plans for some time.

“Qantas remains committed to a major upgrade of its existing A380s, which begins in mid-calendar 2019 and will see us operate the aircraft well into the future.”

In the long-term, Qantas is expected to replace the A380 and the Boeing 747 with a mix of Boeing 787s and either the Boeing 777X or A350.

Another 747 will leave the fleet this month, leaving it with nine, and the last aircraft is scheduled to leave in 2020.

The problem for the A380 is that technology has flown past it and while passengers love it, accountants don’t.

Possibly that is the simplest explanation as to why the A380 superjumbo appears to be struggling to stay in production.

Only one airline – Emirates – has really made the aircraft work the way its builders intended with flash bars and showers.

And that interior has been driven by one man, Emirates president Sir Tim Clark, whose vision of mass travel, has propelled Emirates to the world’s largest international airline.

But technology has left the A380s behind and changing traffic patterns have also thrown out the business case of giant hubs.

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Since the A380 was designed in the late 1990s, much lighter, all-composite aircraft have emerged like the 787 and A350 that burn about 34 percent less fuel per passenger.

The A380s engines have been leap-frogged twice and the new 777X to be rolled out shortly will burn around 40 percent less fuel per passenger because of its new generation General Electric engine – the GE9X.

Airbus tried to interest airlines in an upgraded A380 – the neo for New Engine Option – but only Emirates was interested.

One of the biggest arguments for the A380 was capacity limited Heathrow Airport in the UK.

Many airlines purchased the A380 because of the landing slot constraints at Heathrow and needed the A380 to get more capacity.

But now many of these airlines fly to other destinations in the UK such as Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Cardiff.

And airlines such as Emirates offer over 50 destinations in Europe giving travelers far more options.

With superb fuel economy and unprecedented legs, the twin-engine Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 are the hot tickets for travelers offering a new range of non-stops.

Since it entered service in 2011 the 787 has opened up 220 new routes such as Tokyo to San Jose in California and Perth to London.

The A350 has enabled Singapore Airlines to restart Singapore to New York non-stop as well as Singapore to Los Angeles.

And airlines are clamoring for the 787, A350 and 777X with sales soaring.

Boeing has built or has orders for over 1,400 787s and Airbus almost 900 A350s while the 777X has garnered 350 orders.

A380
Singapore Airlines A350

However, A380 orders have stalled.

As of December 2018, 234 had been delivered and of those 109 were for Emirates.

The remaining firm order book is 53 for Emirates and 3 for ANA. The balance of 31 is considered lapsed.