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If the design made sense financially, it would be 'ruling the skies', as you put it. It doesn't.
No aircraft makes sense unless it's consistently flown close to full - and that's a lot more difficult to consistently attain with a big plane as compared to a smaller one. Customers want point-to-point service, but the big planes depend on the hub & spoke format to fly full; which means pretty much everybody has to change planes at least once ... which customers hate, with a capital H.
Any aircraft can be luxurious - Donald Trump's narrow-body 757 is pretty opulent and spacious, but it makes no financial sense. No airline has ever made a success of offering premium comfort at a premium price, and quite a few had tried and failed. Flyers prefer to spend their money on the ground, not for the few hours they spend in the air. Of course, if someone else is paying, ....
The 380 never made commercial sense - it was only and always nothing more than a European 'vanity project'; like the Indian space program (from a place that that can't even provide minimal facilities for human waste) and erecting the world's tallest building in Kuala Lumpur, where it serves no purpose other than soothing Malay's (justified) feelings of inferiority.
Governments funded the development costs of the flying cattle-car with non-recourse loans, so it's no skin off Airbus' backside if the white elephant is sent to the abattoir ... where it was always destined to end up, as Boeing noted back when it rejected the concept.
I am reminded of the Boeing 747 which went through a rough patch in the early 1970's. I believe Boeing only sold a couple of them for 3 years. Boeing soldiered on rather than swallow the development and infrastructure costs, and were well rewarded, with a near 50 year production run. Airbus isn't the same situation, but one hates to see such a fine aircraft go out of production so soon.
Emirates just bought 36 more, and Airbus will keep the production line going another 10 years. Who knows what the landscape will be in 10 years? As major airports get more congested, and the engines get more efficient, the A380 may start to make sense again. There's life in the big bird yet.
We all know that the A380 is fatally flawed: its wing is 10 metre too short, airframe over-weight, and engines too thirsty. Whether Emirates places a final order or not, the plane is still doomed. The only question is whether the production line will shut down 2 years sooner or later.
Most airlines prefer to fly two 787's, which will carry the same number of passengers and cost less, instead of a single A380.
Classic problem of airlines - customers love the plane but won't pay more to be on it.
In fairness, while largely its own money, Boeing received a lot of funding from their entry in the CX-HLS competition for what became the Lockheed C-5. While they didn't get that contract, the fundamental air frame and propulsion work was carried over and modified into what became the 747.
Boeing has three doors on each side. On most international flights they use two doors at least. So let us not dramatize it. On domestic I agree they use one door but A380 is not a domestic flight thank you God.
As far as the sardines go, the interior of 787 is gorgeous. Roomy just like A380 inside, just for fewer people.
A380 is the Chevy Suburban of air travel. Great prestige and style. But pain in the rear to park, to corner, to fuel up. No matter how congested the air space gets this thing is a monster. There cannot be enough flying between hub cities to take the pain to board and disembark, and all the above operational challenges.
787 is way more efficient, flies just as far, is just as comfortable. It corners faster, works on regular jetways to board or disembark, takes off and lands faster like a Toyota 4Runner.
It is not the price of the seat that the customers have an issue with. It is with the heft of the plane to board, disembark, long lines, and then long taxi before/after takeoff/landing not to mention long time to climb and descend. It is a monster from an operational standpoint. Once airborne it may feel great but that is like half the time of the whole experience.
"...with wide aisles and plenty of headroom."
Shhh, don't say it out loud. Airlines will reduce the aisle width to add another row of seats and may even make the double-decker a triple-decker!
It is interesting to read about how difficult it is to fill the aircraft but please consider the following. American Airlines fly daily between Miami and London Heathrow 2 flights that depart within 1hour 50 minutes of each other. Los Angeles London Heathrow 2 flights that depart within 1hour 30 minutes of each other and New York London Heathrow 2 flights that depart within 1hour 25 minutes of each other. The total capacity of both flights would fit an A380 and would give the airline an additional slot at Heathrow (valued at $75million), reduce overflight charges, landing fees and using an extra flight deck crew. If one therefore considers the 3 flights that would give the airline 3 slots a day at Heathrow which they could either sell or use as well as release 3 sets of crews and 3 aircraft. The A380 is a comfortable people mover and not the 'Palace in the Sky' that some airline market. If the production stops then there will still be a need for the aircraft and Emirates will most probably not return the aircraft they have on lease and the aircraft may benefit from a 'scarcity effect'.
787 is just as quite and smooth. It takes off, lands, taxis much faster.
The A380s may be the most comfortable planes ever flown but they are still white elephants. The fact that sales never met projections and Airbus now struggles to find a market for them proves Boeing was right when it decided not to invest in creating a super jumbo of its own and instead sink its money into lighter, quieter and more fuel efficient planes that can land at the majority of the world's airports and not just the relative few that upgraded to handle super jumbos.
Sir. Given the paucity of actual data/facts we merely have heresay such as quoted by you or Gulliver inthe article on the A380.being more of a loss making/empty proposition than the sardine cans that are Boeing planes on a given route..certainly it makes no sense deploying your crown jewel where dross is needed ie putting up a 400seater be it the A380.OR the hardoard disgusts that are Boeing craft.. where max load is 150.or flytime is under5hrs or whatever..but then that is the point no?
the A380s tragedy was European/Franco hubris - in the initial set back when it came to wiring the thing.. had that not happened/there been better project management, this beauty would be ruling the skies.
'pain to board/disembark'? you over simplify the matter sir for this pain is most acute in the sardine cans that are Boeing aircarft with their single door exit - while squishing you on hardboard for hours at end.. i'd rather wait for a bit in my seat than suffer the hours of torture on any Boeing 'craft'.
it truly will be a tragedy if the most beautiful marvel of almost perfect aircarft engineering that does deliberately caters for creature comforts (ie does not treat passengers like sardines) is victim to 'call my bluff' - the A380 is the epitome of comfort and safety and elegance.. even in the 'cattle class'. Shame that the airlines are not sufficiently be punished by consumer dollars for NOT having more of these beautiful planes/packing us into the horrid claustrophobic stiff thin hardboard horrors that are Boeing aircarft - even in Business/First class. I only fly Emirates deliberately choosing the A380 option (which charges a premium and forces you to suffer for hours in that the garish mausoleum of Dubai) just so that i have a comfortable long haul.. if only Turkish had the A380. sigh. Could Guillver perhaps share the hard financials of running an A380 over a route versus lets say a comparable sardine can/of a comparable airline... say costs of running an A380 Emirates DXB/LHR or DXB/SIN or DXB/SYD with an Emirates sardine can DXB/LHR or DXB/SIN? it WOULD be interesting to see just what this 'expense' really is?
As a state-owned company that has for years benefited from wheelbarrows of government cash, less-than-arms-length transactions, and other goodies, Emirates is not subject to the same constraints as real, investor-owned companies. So they can buy lots of planes, including plenty of A380s.
As someone earlier wrote, the issue with the A380 is the whole strategy is not what customers want (they do not want to change planes because it takes way too long). They want to get to their destination as quickly as possible, end of story. It will be interesting to see what kind of improvements in efficiency occur when AI and automation start making major inroads at airports. There should be no reason why planes end up having to wait 30-40 minutes in lines of 10-15 to take off or waiting for a jetway once they land. Airlines now schedule their flights with padding for normal on ground delays, for instance I just got off a flight from ATL to JFK, the scheduled time for the flight was 2 hours 25 minutes but the flight time was only 1 hour 25 minutes, reduce that by 30-40 minutes and the airline, airport, and customer will all benefit.