Qantas has confirmed it has cancelled its outstanding 2006 order for eight Airbus A380s, putting the future of the aircraft into further doubt.
The Australian flag carrier said that the additional superjumbos have not been part of its fleet and network plans “for some time.”
It says it is committed to the continued use of the 12 A380s in its fleet, which it has outlined plans to refurbish over the next two years, adding the Business Suite product currently on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners. It will also introduce a new cabin door arrangement that will allow it to add more business or premium economy seats.
Qantas has eight B787s and will receive more towards the end of year in order to phase out its B747s.
Speculation has surrounded the longevity of the A380 for more than a year.
That escalated earlier this month when Airbus revealed it is in discussions with its biggest customer Emirates, which has 108 A380s in its fleet, over a 2018 Memorandum of Understanding to acquire up to 36 more for $16 billion.
At the time Airbus said the order demonstrated the continued health of the A380 programme and underscored its “commitment to produce the A380 at least for another ten years”. But before the Emirates order was placed, Airbus said that a failure to secure it would mean the end of production.
Airbus delivered 12 A380s in 2018, down from 15 in 2017.
As well as the glamour of being a double-decker aircraft kitted out with features like showers and bars, the A380 was initially promoted as a way for airlines to carry more passengers in fewer slots. Its capacity is more than 500.
But it has faced competition from more fuel-efficient aircraft such as the A350 and B787, along with longer-range single aisle planes such as the A321LR and B737 Max, both of which are capable of operating transatlantic services.
Jason Choi, passenger network manager for Cathay Pacific, recently said the airline has not bought the aircraft because its size means longer turnaround times and would mean fewer flights per day for customers to choose between.
At a Oneworld event attended by Business Traveller last week, IAG’s Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said the group – which comprises British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level – would consider buying more A380s if Airbus would sell them at a more “attractive” price, but that point had not been reached.
In its full statement on the A380 cancellation, Qantas said:
“Following discussions with Airbus, Qantas has now formalised its decision not to take eight additional A380s that were ordered in 2006. These aircraft have not been part of the airline’s fleet and network plans for some time. Qantas remains committed to a major upgrade of its existing A380s, which begins in mid-calendar 2019 and will see us operate the aircraft well into the future.”