On 7th February 200 lucky journalists were taken up for a spin in Airbus’s new A380 giant. It was a test flight designed to show off its revolutionary features, but the project is the cause of the planemaker’s current grief.
Two years ago the A380 was unveiled to great fanfare, with the leaders of the big four nations involved, France, Britain, Germany, and Spain, proudly presenting their flagship to the world.
It was the world’s biggest passenger airliner destined to topple the plane that since the 1970’s had cornered the market, Boeing’s 747. But production problems have set back theA380 by two years, resulting in a thin order book; only 166 have been sold to date.
Industry experts had warned the project was a gamble, because Boeing had a new product, based on a totally different projection of how the market would go. The 787 would fly as far, carrying fewer people, but was super light and cheaper to operate. Airbus hurriedly launched its A350 programme to respond.
But it is 50 percent heavier, and 30 percent more expensive. It is also late, and will come into service five years after Boeing’s new baby. The result? A clear win for the Americans, with sales outstripping Airbus’s meagre 15.
Last year Boeing’s sales surpassed Airbus’s for the first time since 2000, and this year is unlikely to be any better. Workers at Airbus are furious. They point to full order books, and complain that management, not they, are responsible for the job losses. Many in the industry feel they have a point.