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Time to say goodbye to Emirates Airlines’ Airbus A380

The countdown has begun towards Emirates Airlines finally making a strategic decision to change manufacturers. Keep reading below.

Emirates Airlines celebrated today the milestone delivery of its 100th Airbus A380 aircraft at a special ceremony, with Airbus at the manufacturer’s delivery centre in Hamburg.

Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the A380 aircraft, flying this double-decked jet to 48 cities on six continents on scheduled services, with over 70 airports having welcomed the aircraft to date.

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Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Emirates’s Chairman and Chief, said: “For Emirates, the A380 has been a success. We’ve been able to utilise it at slot-constrained airports, as well as at regional and ‘secondary’ airports where we have grown passenger demand. Each time we deploy an A380 onto a route, it typically stimulates further traffic and demand as travellers are attracted by our flagship A380 experience.”

“There is no doubt that the A380 has had a big positive impact on aerospace manufacturing and importantly, the A380 also brought the flying experience for our customers to the next level,” he adds.

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Tom Enders, Airbus’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “It is a source of immense satisfaction for everyone at Airbus that such a visionary airline has believed in the A380 from the beginning and chosen it as its flagship and the backbone of its operations.”

The problem is that it won’t be for too long.

A380 on its way out

Saj Ahmad, Chief Analyst, StrategicAero Research, and an industry observer, said that as its signature airplane, the A380, became an immense vehicle for Emirates in opening routes, in which it needed extra capacity, and slot-constrained Heathrow is but one example.

“As a product, the A380 doesn’t appeal to every airline but it worked for Emirates and was used to launch longer non-stop routes to New Zealand and Emirates has been deploying the A380 fleet as flexibly as a smaller airplane and with different cabin layouts to suit market demand,” he said.

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That’s the good news. Here comes bad.

“On the flip side, the A380 has been a monumental financial abyss for manufacturer Airbus,” Ahmad offers.

He explains that the A380 has failed to come anywhere near the sale goals envisaged for it and that at nearly 20 years old it is entering the age of obsolescence and facing more efficient airplanes like 777X, 787 and A350.

“The A380 simply cannot cut the mustard against such competing rivals. That’s precisely why sales of the A380 have been so poor and this is why Emirates’ decision to buy 150+50 new 777X’s will eventually go some way to replacing the ageing A380s as they start to be withdrawn from service in a few years’ time,” Ahmad said adding, “ the reality is that the ageing A380 is on borrowed time.”

New Emirates’s fleet

For its future fleet, Emirates has up to 200 new Boeing 777-8 and 777-9 airplanes coming into the fleet, explains Ahmad.

“The bulk of these will of course replace today’s existing fleet of 777-200LR and 777-300ER airplanes, however, Emirates is still inducting new 777-300ERs,” he said.

“So 777-8 and 777-9 will ostensibly replace the older jets and by extension the ageing A380s too. And as Boeing talks about a stretched 777-10 as well, Emirates may well consider that model as an alternative.”

Ahmad said that as the A380s were drawn down out of the fleet, Emirates’ strategy would gravitate around the 777X family for its future long haul needs.

That calls to question Emirates signing a €8.7 billion ($10bn) deal with Rolls-Royce for Trent 900 engines that will power 50 Airbus A380s, which began entering service in 2016, but until a date is fixed to lay these aircrafts to rest, the company will continue aiming to enhance the experience of future passengers, knowing that 85 million travellers have flown on the Emirates A380 to date.