- Airbus is delivering the last Airbus A380 passenger aircraft to Emirates in December.
- Pilots flying the last test flight before delivery pulled a heart in the sky at 35,000 feet.
- The A380 has been a status symbol for airlines, but was made obsolete by newer aircraft and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airbus has reached the end of the runway with the Airbus A380.
The last A380 has been built at Airbus’ production facility in Toulouse, France, and has just flown its last test flight before Emirates takes on the aircraft.
Emirates is expected to receive the last A380 in December to join their fleet of 115 A380s and counters.
But before handing over the keys for the last time, Airbus paid tribute to its largest passenger aircraft, which has been a fixture for more than two decades.
MSN272 left Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport for a routine test flight on Sunday that lasted almost five hours, according to Flightradar 24 data. Airbus float test pilots brought the aircraft up to a peak altitude of 43,000 feet as it flew in near-racetrack patterns over Germany and northwestern Poland.
One of the last maneuvers performed by pilots was to draw a heart shape in the sky at 30,000 feet.
—Airbus (@Airbus) December 13, 2021
“Nothing but love for the A380 as the last superjumbo to join our fleet takes to the skies for a final test flight,” Emirates tweeted of the apartment.
The end of the superjumbo era
The A380 has been flying since 2005, when Airbus finally overtook Boeing and its 747 by building the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
For many airlines, the A380 has been a status symbol to show off on their most high-profile routes, and most ordered no more than 20 models for their fleets. Emirates has been the only airline to have made the A380 the backbone of its fleet, using it for flights from Dubai as far as Los Angeles and as close as Muscat, Oman.
But the last few years have solidified the aircraft as obsolete, too large and too expensive in a time of efficient twin-engine aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce previously said the airline could fly two Dreamliner for less than the price of an Airbus A380 on the same route.
While the A380 is one of Airbus’ lowest-selling aircraft with only 251 orders in more than 20 years of development and production, it has been a favorite with customers thanks to its abundance of space and the extra features that airlines have been able to offer. .
Etihad Airways chose to use the A380 as the sole platform for “The Residence”, or the luxury airborne apartments for which travelers could pay up to $ 20,000. And at the Emirates, two of the premier toilets have been transformed into “showers” where travelers can take a hot shower in the middle of the flight complete with luxury Bulgari products.
Etihad has not yet decided whether to keep or dispose of its Airbus A380s, which are currently in stock across the globe. Tony Douglas, Etihad’s CEO, told Insider at the Dubai Airshow in November that the A380s are not “in the plan at the moment”, but “If the economy of it works, they are back in.”
The journey to build the final A380 has stretched over the length of the COVID-19 pandemic, the same pandemic that has spurred airlines like Air France and Lufthansa to abandon the plane. Airbus drove the last A380’s fuselage through France in June 2020, after its parts arrived from France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
But even though the A380’s route map continues to shrink due to retirement and no new aircraft in production, loyal airlines will keep the world’s largest passenger jet flying for decades to come.