The aircraft business has always been a dear affair. More than other forms of transport, it remains susceptible to oscillating costs (materials, fuel), ever at the mercy of the uncontrollable. The Airbus A380 was meant to be a giant’s contribution to aviation. In time, its makers came to the conclusion that the bird had already flown.
In the solemn words of outgoing Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, “We have no sustainable A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years.”
As much as it was a “technical wonder” (an “outstanding engineering and industrial achievement” boasted Enders), the A380 simply did not have the momentum financially to carry the company. To a large extent, this may have been embedded in the mission itself: to outperform, at quite literally all cost, the Boeing 747, the super mega jet dream born in 1988 when Airbus engineers went to work on designing an ultra-high-capacity-airliner (UHCA). This would entail the guzzling addition of four jet engines, and an ongoing headache to the accountants.
The consequences of this vain if admired project have been more than head-ache inducing. Carriers who have gone for purchases of the divine beast have under-performed on the revenue side of things. Such large entities, to make matters viable, need orders covering up to four-fifths of the seats. This leads to incentives to discount prices and seek…