Airbus A380 turns 15

Airbus A380 turns 15

Airbus A380 turns 15. This aircraft was dubbed as the successor to the B747 also known as the Queen of the skies. First built in 2005, it celebrates 15 years in the air. The level of expectation and promise the A380 showed was second to none in this decade.

Birth of the A380

The A380 first took to the sky on the April 27th 2005, which is exactly 15 years back. This aircraft created so much expectation that it was expected to revolutionise air travel. After all this was set to be the largest aircraft in history. The A380 was built to compete with the B747 in the long haul market.

Airbus A380-800 Own the sky at Toulouse
A380 is the largest passenger aircraft built with a capacity to carry over 600 passengers. Photo: Airbus

The first flight flew on April 27th 2005 taking off from Toulouse with 6 people on board. After 3 hours 54 minutes in the air the aircraft returned back to Toulouse.

The launch customer for the A380 was Singapore Airlines making its first flight from Singapore to Sydney as SQ380. Emirates was the second customer and is the leading operator of the A380 with 115 aircraft.

Why was the A380 special ?

A380 was the largest passenger aircraft ever manufactured. This was set to directly compete with the B747. These aircraft were to carry unimaginable number of passengers from one place to another. This was the first double decker to stretch full length.

Qatar Airways A380
Tails of Qatar Airways at Doha International Airport. Photo: Qatar Airways

Each aircraft costs around half a billion. The aircraft was designed in such a way that it is one of the most quietest aircraft to fly. Comparing it with its size, it is surprising the amount of noise it generates.

Being the largest passenger aircraft ever built it can carry upto 853 passengers on a single economy class. But since airlines prefer to have a three class configuration the capacity varies around 500+. An aircraft flying up in the air carrying 500+ passengers was definitely something astonishing.

Airbus A380 is also very fuel efficient to an extent where it is one of the most fuel efficient aircraft made. Another reason which made the aircraft special was the ability to fly long ranges carrying close to 500+ passengers.

Etihad Residence by Etihad Airways
Inside Etihad’s residence which offered three room luxury suite. Photo: Airbus

These A380 aircraft also represented luxury up in the air. Emirates and Etihad had shower on board. The aircraft could carry enough water for it to last the flight. Etihad also launched residence by Etihad which offered a three room luxury suite.

Future of the A380

Airbus last year had announced halting of production of A380 due to orders drying up which means even though the aircraft might fly after 2021, there will be no aircraft produced later than that.

Airlines had already started grounding their A380 even before the pandemic struck. The occurrence of the pandemic is speeding the process of retiring these aircraft.

Though the aircraft is a hit among the passengers it doesn’t seem mohave struck the right chord with airlines. Though with a full load airlines can make a profit, the downside is that if the flight isn’t running to its capacity then it leads to massive losses. The maintenance of these aircraft is also comparatively higher to the twin engine aircraft.

A380 is also not suited for all airports as airports will have to build necessary equipment to host these aircraft. With coronavirus halting air travel leading to grounding of aircraft, it seems unlikely airlines will use these aircraft in the near future until demand picks up.

Airlines using A380

Singapore Airlines was the first airline to use the A380 aircraft with a flight from Singapore to Sydney. Times have changed as Singapore Airlines had sent four of its aircraft for storage in Alice Springs, Australia.

Emirates is the biggest customer of the A380 with a total of 115 aircraft in its fleet. One of the main decisions that prompted Airbus to stop the production of the model was Emirates’s decision to reduce its order of aircraft.

Emirates is the largest operator of the A38-800 aircraft
Emirates is the biggest customer of the A380 with 115 aircraft in its fleet. Photo: Airbus

Other than the two fourteen other airlines use the A380 with ANA the most recent airline to receive its A380 aircraft.

Air France had already planned the retirement of its A380 aircraft even before the pandemic struck and has parked its aircraft in Spanish storage base of Teruel. British Airways, another A380 operator has sent its A380 to Chateauroux.

British Airways received its first A380-800 in September 2013
British Airways has grounded its A380 aircraft with most of them in the French storage base of Chateauroux. Photo: British Airways

Qatar Airways has also grounded its A380 aircraft with another operate in Thai which has six aircraft already with financial troubles unlikely to get their aircraft up in the air.

Conclusion

Airbus A380 had taken to the sky with great dreams, expectations and hope. Fast forward 15 years and we are starting at the survival of the breed of aircraft.

With the current scenario it seems certain airlines will not fly the in the air due to low demand for travel which will result in poor load factor.

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