End of An Era: Emirates Converts A380 Orders To A350s & A330s

a collage of a plane in the sky

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When Emirates retired its last Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft in 2016 it left the airline operating just two aircraft types – the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777 – and that’s unusual for an airline of Emirates size.

Emirates currently operates over 100 Airbus A380 aircraft and has been almost solely responsible for keeping the A380 production lines open for quite some time.

Emirates A380 at LAX

With the future of the A380 looking shaky Emirates tentatively ordered 36 aircraft back in January 2018 giving the Whale Jet another stay of execution but, recently, there have been rumors that this order was in jeopardy.

Stories coming from a number of different sources indicated that Emirates was looking to convert its A380 orders into orders for some of Airbus’ more modern and economical aircraft and there have even been suggestions that A380 production may be shutdown within a year.

Well, A380 production isn’t being shut down just yet but the end is definitely in sight.

Emirates has just announced a deal to purchase 40 Airbus A330-900neo and 30 Airbus A350-900 aircraft which will be delivered between 2021 and 2024 and this signals the end of the road for the Airbus A380.

a white airplane flying in the sky
Emirates Airbus A330-900 – Image courtesy of Airbus

Even though the airline has also confirmed that it will be taking delivery of a further 14 Airbus A380s between this year and 2021 it looks as if these aircraft were already in the pipeline before Emirates signed the memorandum of understanding for a further 36 frames in January 2018 – that order appears to have been converted into orders for other Airbus wide-body aircraft – and it has reduced its overall A380 order by a further 3 aircraft.

Emirates will now take delivery of a total of 123 A380s down from an order of 163.

Any doubts that this is the end of the road for Emirates and the A380 were put to rest by the finality of a statement from the Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group:

Emirates has been a staunch supporter of the A380 since its very inception. While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the programme could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation. For us, the A380 is a wonderful aircraft loved by our customers and our crew. It is a differentiator for Emirates. We have shown how people can truly fly better on the A380, and Emirates has set the standards for that by introducing customer experiences that are unique to the A380 like our Shower Spas and Onboard Lounge. The A380 will remain a pillar of our fleet well into the 2030s, and as we have always done, Emirates will continue to invest in our onboard product and services so our customers can be assured that the Emirates A380 experience will always be top-notch.

In a separate statement Airbus CEO Tom Enders confirmed that this is the end for the A380:

As a result of [the decision by Emirates] we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years. This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021

Going forward Emirates plans to operate the A330-900neos on it regional routes and possibly even on new, smaller, routes that are utterly unsustainable with the aircraft Emirates currently operates.

a white airplane flying in the sky
Emirates Airbus A350-900 – Image courtesy of Airbus

The A350-900s will be used to supplement Emirates’ long-haul operations and will be deployed on routes of between 8 and 12 hours in length.

As this stage Emirates hasn’t given any indications as to what cabins we can expect its new aircraft to have and we don’t know if there are new seats/suites in the works….but this will definitely shake up the airline’s fleet.

Bottom Line

With its number one sponsor no longer interested in future orders this was always going to be the end of the road for the A380.

Modern aviation is all about twin-engined efficient aircraft that can be employed economically on a variety routes and the A380 simply cannot deliver that – it’s outdated.

It’s a sign of how rapidly aviation is evolving that an aircraft that first took flight just 14 years ago (27 April 2005) is already considered outdated and without a future (in contrast the 747 was over 30 years old before serious doubts as to its long-term viability began to emerge).

Still, as Emirates has said, the A380 will be flying for years to come so the onboard bars and showers are not a thing of the past just yet and it’s going to be interesting to see how innovative the airline will be when it comes to choosing the interiors for its new aircraft – maybe we’ll see the airline come up with something amazing again. Let’s hope so.