Paras from Time’s Can the A380 Bring the Party Back to the Skies?
Aircraft analyst Richard L. Aboulafia of Teal Group has called the A380 “the worst product launch decision since New Coke.” The A380 was born in a hub-and-spoke world where flights between countries were regulated. Now, airlines are freer to go point-to-point, avoiding the major hubs — and making 800-passenger megajets less necessary.
Like all new jetliners, the A380 was controversial in conception, delayed in construction and years late on arrival. But none could have predicted that the A380 would fly into the most turbulent economy in the history of aviation. Air France ordered a dozen of the $300 million aircraft in 2000, when the economic forecast called for steady growth. By the time Air France took delivery nine years later, the industry was on its knees and the big-spending investment bankers whose business- and first-class tickets make up the bulk of airline profits had largely evaporated.
The A380 is the largest airliner to ever part with the pavement: it can hold as many as 800 passengers in full sardine-can configuration, although Air France has mercifully limited the crowd to 535 in first, business and coach classes. In preparation for its entry into service in 2007, airports widened runways and hardened taxiways. Its catering trucks rise two stories off the ground to reach the galleys.
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