Opinion: Is the A380 becoming a white elephant?

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In Paris, the Airbus A380 is once again being wheeled out to perform its flying display in the skies above Le Bourget.

The manufacturer continues to talk up the double-decker’s prospects, but the lack of new orders and a dwindling backlog hint at a production rate that will go only one way. And if that happens, losses on the programme again become an issue.

Of course, the airframer is still trying to enhance the platform, with winglets the latest modification under consideration. However, it says there must be sufficient customer interest for it to pursue such a development.

Conversely, it declines to proceed in the one area where it does have an operator clamouring for an upgrade, with Airbus reiterating its opposition to an A380neo, despite the wishes of Emirates, the largest customer for the type.

It says there is “no business case” for such a programme, which could be interpreted as the airframer ensuring it does not throw good money after bad.

Airbus will undoubtedly accentuate the positive about the A380 in Paris – how customers will return, how the market needs it – but is unlikely to reveal any new orders.

And as impressive as the flying display is – its bulk belies a surprising gracefulness – the superjumbo looks increasingly like becoming a white elephant.

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