Airbus announced it has delivered its 100th A380. This is a big milestone in any program and, given the way new airplane programs go these days, a milestone calling for a celebratory moment. The A380 program seems to have settled into a rhythm with steady progress. Airbus’ VLA program got off to a rocky start and settled down just as the first in a series of industry hiccups came along; oil price spikes, terror and financial meltdown. Not a great time to be selling over $300m items. Airbus also had to deal with a few A380 news items that caught attention; QF32 and the follow on wing structural part that needed replacing.
Yet the program has kept plowing ahead. There have been repeat orders from numerous customers. Big names like Emirates, Singapore and now Lufthansa. This is clearly an endorsement of the program. Passengers who have flown the airplane seem to like it a lot and this is something Airbus has been thrilled to share.
Boeing’s 747-8I has not seen orders like the A380. Then again the 747-8F has been selling slowly while there is no A380F. Boeing argues that the 747-8 remains a more efficient airframe because it can carry payloads at a higher density. For example, Airbus places crew rest below the floor, taking up space that could be sold as freight or used to carry passengers’ baggage. Boeing uses the roof for crew rest and they argue this is more space efficient.
Lufthansa is the only airline flying both 747-8I and A380 won’t compare the two airplanes publicly. They just say both are doing well. But they have ordered more A380s and slowed 747-8I deliveries. Read into that whatever you want. We don’t think this necessarily sends a signal. Our view is that the 747-8I and A380 are not really comparable. Lufthansa does not use these airplanes on the same routes.
Its great to see the A380 program hit this milestone. The VLA market looks like a niche though, especially if you discount Emirates’ view of the world.