Emirates will receive the final Airbus A380 superjumbo on Thursday evening at an Airbus delivery ceremony in Toulouse, France, bringing an end to a 14-year era for the double-deck aircraft that captured the hearts of countless passengers but failed to earn enough backing from airline CEOs.
Even Emirates, the A380’s most ardent booster, couldn’t persuade Airbus to keep the project afloat when the company went looking for new contracts, and manufacturing was halted in February 2019.
The aircraft will be operated by the Dubai-based airline for at least a few more years, and Airbus says it will continue to assist the project throughout its life cycle.
With its now-legendary onboard bar and lounge, as well as a First Class shower, the A380 put Emirates ahead of the competition. The A380 swiftly established itself as Emirates’ flagship aircraft and a generational icon.
View this post on Instagram
The airline’s latest product, a 56-seater Premium Economy cabin, was installed on the last six A380s delivered to Emirates. The Premium Economy class, which the airline had previously rejected, has proven an instant hit with passengers, and President Sir Tim Clark now confesses that he should have embraced it years ago.
When the keys are turned over to Emirates on Thursday, ship number MSN272 will be the last of 249 A380s to be delivered.
Airbus had aimed to sell more than 1,000 A380s, touting the plane as a way to relieve congestion at overcrowded airports. In the end, not enough airlines were convinced by the A380’s economics, so they chose smaller, more fuel-efficient planes instead.
Emirates was a rare example of an airline that was able to fill the A380 to capacity and generate a fair profit thanks to its mega-hub in Dubai. When the epidemic struck, however, Emirates realized that the A380 would have to be grounded, and it would have to rely on its Boeing 777 fleet instead.
Air France and Lufthansa have retired their A380 fleets, while Singapore Airlines has retired several A380s and Qatar Airways is only “reluctantly” bringing back its superjumbos due to capacity constraints.
When the final A380 arrives later today, Emirates’ A380 fleet will have grown to 118 aircraft. Following the pandemic, the airline claims it has only returned about half of its A380 aircraft to active operation.