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Airbus to scrap production of A380 superjumbo in 2021

Phil Noble, File photo, Reuters | An Emirates Airbus A380-800 aircraft takes off from Manchester Airport in Manchester, UK, on September 4, 2018.

Europe’s Airbus announced plans to scrap production of the A380 superjumbo on Thursday, abandoning its dream of dominating the skies with a cruiseliner for the 21st century after years of lacklustre sales.

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The world’s largest airliner, with two decks of spacious cabins and room for 544 people in standard layout, was designed to challenge Boeing’s legendary 747 but failed to take hold as airlines backed a new generation of smaller, more nimble jets.

Airbus said in a statement that the last A380 would be delivered in 2021.

Confirming a shake-up first reported by Reuters, it said Emirates -- the largest A380 customer -- had decided to reduce its orders for the iconic superjumbo and order a total of 70 of the smaller A350 and A330neo models.

The European company said it would enter talks with unions in coming weeks over the 3,000-3,500 jobs potentially affected. Enders later said the company could not guarantee all would keep their jobs.

The jobs at risk are mainly in France and Germany but there could also be an impact in Spain and Britain too.

Airbus took a charge of 463 million euros for shutdown costs, but is expected to be forgiven some 1 billion euros of outstanding European government loans under a funding system that stands at the centre of a trade dispute with Boeing.

Airbus shares rose 5 percent on investor relief that Airbus would close a long-running chapter of losses on the A380, also buoyed by stronger than expected 2018 results.

Airbus will produce 17 more of the planes including 14 for Emirates and 3 for Japanese airline ANA.

As part of the restructuring, Emirates placed a new order for 40 A330-900neo jets and 30 A350-900 aircraft, partially restoring a purchase of A350 aircraft which it cancelled in 2014.

Boon for Boeing

The decision is a boon for rival Boeing and a crushing blow for Airbus. The European plane maker had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionise air travel as more people take to the skies.

Instead, airlines have been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it. The double-decker planes started flying in 2008.

The A380 had troubles from the start, including tensions between Airbus’s French and German management and protracted production delays and cost overruns. Those prompted a company restructuring that cost thousands of jobs.

Industry experts initially expected A380s to long outlast the 747, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year.

When it started taking on passengers in 2008, the A380 was hailed for its roominess, large windows, high ceilings and quieter engines. Some carriers put in showers, lounges, duty free shops, bars on both decks.

‘Sad’

Emirates, which had built its global brand around the A380 and Boeing 777 and which also has 100 of the Airbus superjumbos in its fleet, said it was disappointed by the closure.

“Emirates has been a staunch supporter of the A380 since its very inception,” said Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum.

“While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the programme could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation,” he added.

The A380 will remain a pillar of the Emirates fleet well into the 2030s, stated the airline.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)

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