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Airbus’s A380 Airliner Receives Yet Another Blow, This Time from Qantas

Airbus’s A380 double-decker airliner has received another blow, as the Australian flag carrier Qantas announced Thursday that it was formally cancelling a longstanding order for eight of the craft.

The order was placed in 2006. Qantas, which already has a dozen A380s in its fleet that it plans to refurbish, said in a statement reported by Reuters that “these [eight] aircraft have not been part of the airline’s fleet and network plans for some time.”

Last month, Hong Kong Airlines cancelled an order for 10 A380s, and Emirates is also reportedly looking at switching 20 orders from the A380 to the smaller A350.

The Emirates move would be a particularly harsh blow for the A380 program, as Dubai’s airline last year essentially saved the A380 by pledging to order three dozen of them. Airbus needs to build at least six of the craft a year if the production line is to remain efficient, so now the whole program is in doubt.

The issue with the A380 is that, because it’s so big, it costs a fortune to run. That makes it viable only for fully-booked flights, and a worse option than smaller craft that give carriers more flexibility in their deployment.

As Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said last week in an Airline Ratings interview: “The A380 was a game changer, but maybe it came at the wrong time with the fuel prices skyrocketing after its introduction. As an aircraft, it is very well suited for routes that require high capacity [but] to me, this aircraft is very heavy, has very high fuel consumption, and that’s because the aircraft structure was built for a stretch.”