Production of the jumbo jet will end by 2021, after the A380’s biggest customer, Emirates, and a handful of remaining buyers receive their last orders.
The Gulf carrier will pare down its current A380 order to 14 from 53, Airbus said in a statement on Thursday.
Emirates said separately it would purchase 70 smaller A330neo and A350 widebodies listed at $21.4 billion before customary discounts.
“Today’s announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide,” Airbus chief executive office Tom Enders said in a statement.
Airbus said as many as 3,500 jobs are affected by the decision.
While the A380 has struggled for years to match its popular appeal with a robust order book, the radical move to cancel the plane outright marks a watershed moment for civil aviation. The A380 was always more than an aircraft, albeit a very large one.
Rather, it was the manifestation of Europe’s collaborative drive and the continent’s industrial ambitions. For Airbus, the airliner sought to create a commanding counterweight to Boeing, promising unparalleled space and luxury for increasingly congested airports and the skies above.
But from early on, the world’s largest commercial passenger plane with capacity for more than 800 passengers had a hard time, both technically and commercially. Getting the A380 airborne for its maiden flight was severely delayed by wiring glitches that resulted from faulty communications between design teams.
When the plane finally embarked on its first commercial flight in late 2007, the financial crisis that would cripple global travel was already on the horizon. Some customers had second thoughts about whether the giant aircraft was the right choice for meager times, and cancellations started piling up.
Airbus had watched enviously as Boeing monopolized the market for very large aircraft with its 747 jumbo, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month and sold more than 1,500 units.
While Airbus was a major force in the singleaisle space with its A320 family, the prestigious long-distance and ultra-large aircraft segment remained the domain of its US rival. With passenger numbers rising every year and major new hubs opening in markets like Dubai, the A380 seemed the obvious choice to address the need for a large people carrier, while picking market share off Boeing.