Airbus is to dramatically cut production of the A380 superjumbo, highlighting the lacklustre performance of the biggest passenger jet ever built, reports The Guardian.
The plane-maker aims to cut production to just 12 A380s in 2018, compared with 27 deliveries in 2015.
The announcement will raise concerns among staff at Broughton in north Wales, where Airbus makes the wings for the A380. It also threatens to cast a shadow over the Farnborough airshow for Airbus, which has attracted orders for its mid-sized A350 aircraft and its short-haul A320 family of jets.
The A380 had its first flight in 2005. At present, 193 planes are in service, with 319 ordered by airlines. However, demand for the plane has been lower than expected as airlines have focused on smaller, more fuel-efficient planes.
The plane was launched as a high-profile European project to rival Boeing’s 747. However, it has been dogged by problems. It ran billions of pounds over budget and years behind schedule. When the A380 went into service, a Qantas plane suffered an engine blow-out in mid-air. No one was hurt, but Airbus had to ground the fleet of A380s until it established what was wrong with the Rolls-Royce engines.
There has been speculation that Airbus could scrap the project, although the latest announcement secures its short-term future.
Cutting production to just 12 aircraft could be financially damaging for Airbus. The Franco-German company broke even on the A380 last year when it delivered 27 planes and is aiming to achieve break even at 20 aircraft next year. Airbus said it will target “additional cost reduction initiatives” to lower the breakeven point further.
However, the decline in A380 is being offset by an increase in sales of the A350 and A320, which will reassure the company’s 15,000 UK staff.
Fabrice Brégier, chief executive of Airbus’s commercial aircraft division, said: “With this prudent, proactive step we are establishing a new target for our industrial planning, meeting current commercial demand but keeping all our options open to benefit from future A380 markets, which we consider in the environment of ongoing aviation growth and constrained airport capacity as a given.
“We are maintaining, innovating and investing in the A380, keeping the aircraft the favourite of passengers, the airlines and airports – today and in the future. The A380 is here to stay.”