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ATW Editor's Blog

The A380 10 years on and Leahy’s optimism for 50 years more.


It’s been 10 years since the first Airbus A380 took flight. To mark the occasion, Airbus has created a video starring their COO, customers John Leahy (and the A380, of course, but this is really John’s show).

As you would expect, the video puts a very rosy gloss on the A380’s sales success. Yes, more than 300 aircraft have been sold, but the truth is that Airbus had hoped for bigger numbers. And while pressure is being applied by some customers to produce a re-engined A380neo, it should be noted that it has not always been clear that A380 production line could remain economically viable.

A major gap in the A380 order book is North America – no US carriers have bought this plane. But Leahy says in the video that he believes this will change, especially as US carriers extend their Asia-Pacific networks. It’s just a matter of time, he says.

I think he may be right, but it is still a ways off. I don’t see any US airline prioritizing the A380 in its current fleet planning.

But what I will note here is that, personally, I love flying on the A380. I’ve done long-haul flights in economy, premium-economy and business class on several different airlines and it is a very comfortable plane. Spacious, bright, amazingly quiet and very stable; I love the big overhead bins and, best of all, getting a window seat with a bin right next to me (keeps my stuff handy and gives me an extra “table” and elbow room.

When Leahy and Airbus first started touting the idea of this double-decker (and I was at another aviation publication), I was a complete non-believer. I firmly believed I would never want to fly on this mass-transit flying bus.

So yes, John, I was wrong and you were right. I actually feel far less “crowded” on an A380 than on almost any other aircraft. I’m one of those passengers who chooses an A380 if options allow.

So here’s a last word from Leahy from the video and you can watch the video itself here:  “We constantly talk to our customers and there have been rumors out in the field about whether we are going to look at new engines on the airplane, new aero-dynamic improvements on the aircraft. These are evolutionary changes. They are part of the system of keeping an airplane alive for up to 40 or 50 years and this program will be around 40 to 50 years from now. No doubt in my mind about that.” 

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