By Arnold Agaba
Airbus has announced that it will cease delivery of the A380 (superjumbo) in 2021. The A380 is the largest commercial passenger plane to take to the skies having superseded Boeing’s 747 (Jumbo jet).
Since its inaugural commercial flight in Singapore Airlines stripes, the A380 has captured the amazement of passengers, the cockpit and cabin crew who operate it, the engineers who maintain its airworthiness, ground crew and just about all aircraft enthusiast. The fascination of the A380 lies in its capacity to fly over 500 passengers(in a three class configuration) or over 800 people (in a single class configuration) all in one go.
The A380’s elegant design and huge wing span gives it an imposing structure which makes flying on one a unique experience. Moreover, since cabin size is large, it is possible to configure the A380 with luxury previously unknown in flying. Suits on Singapore airlines, Emirates Airlines and Etihad airlines are known to epitomize onboard luxury. A380s cabins upper deck cabins often have private suits including an onboard shower, private rooms equipped with fully flat beds and 23 inch LCD Tvs (not to mention restaurants and bars).
The tale of A380 is a tale of impaired foresight as the A380 was built to compete with Boeing’s 747. Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, Airbus’ management anticipated that the future airline business would be dominated by airlines which concentrated passengers in their hubs before flying them onwards to major cities around the world. To the Airbus team, the industry would demand larger long range planes capable of airlifting hundreds of passengers in one go from their service hubs. However, Airbus incurred huge losses in the development stage and this would haunt the A380 project indefinitely. Moreover, the high cost of production makes the A380 one of the most expensive aircraft to be assembled and in turn exacerbates the Airbus’ woes.
Boeing on the other hand anticipated to the contrary. The management thought that the airline business would be dominated by airlines with increased frequency of service from points of origin (including hubs) to various points of destination. To Boeing, this would inspire demand for fuel efficient mid-sized planes as opposed to huge planes with large passenger capacity. Boeing decided to concentrate on programs that would produce mid-sized planes culminating into the Dreamliner 787. The 787 has had its challenges too but it seems to be the plane for the future.
Indeed, two decades after the height of the A380 and 747 competition, Boeing is having the last laugh. Whereas the Dreamliner is an instant hit with major airlines around the world, the A380 has struggled to attract buyers yet its major customers including Emirates, Qantas and Singapore have slowly begun to abandon the A380. All is not lost for Airbus however. It anticipated market down turn and begun their A33Oneo program. The A330neo family has had a a relatively good reception in the market.
In July 2018, Uganda Airlines ordered two A330-800neos to enhance its fleet as it seeks to relaunch its national airline. The A330-800neo is powered by the latest Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines. It is a shorter fuselage member of the A330neo family. Aside Uganda Airlines, a number of other airlines will fly aircraft from the A330 family including Emirates airlines, Turkish airlines and Air Senegal.