A380 cancellations by Qantas raise new questions about future of Airbus plane

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CNN Business

Doubts over the future of the Airbus A380 have grown after another airline canceled an order for the superjumbo jet.

Qantas from Australia

said on Thursday that it had abandoned long-held plans to buy eight more two-stage aircraft.

The A380 has been a great disappointment for Airbus

, racking up less than a quarter of the European company’s expected sales when the giant jetliner was first introduced more than a decade ago. The disappointing demand has fueled questions about how long the manufacturer can justify continuing production of the iconic plane.

Airlines like Qantas have shifted their focus to lighter, more fuel-efficient passenger jets.

“For Qantas, the A380 is the aircraft of the past, not its future,” said Ellis Taylor, Asia finance editor at aviation intelligence firm FlightGlobal.

Other airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, have dropped plans to buy the plane over the past year. Airbus has just 79 firm orders left for it, according to FlightGlobal data.

The program’s future may depend on Dubai-based Emirates, the largest A380 operator with more than 100 aircraft in service. The Gulf carrier last year order 20 more superjumbo jets, with the option to purchase an additional 16 more.

But Airbus said last month that it was renegotiate the deal with Emirates following reports the airline was looking to shift orders to the smaller, newer A350.

“Emirates changing its entire order would definitely be the death knell for the A380,” Taylor said.

British Airways and All Nippon Airways of Japan are among other potential customers for the plane, but neither airline has committed to adding more A380s to its fleet.

“It makes it hard to see where more sales will come from in the short term,” Taylor said.

An Airbus spokesman confirmed on Thursday that Qantas had changed its order but did not comment on what this means for the future of the A380.

Qantas said it was upgrading its existing 12 A380s and planned “to operate the aircraft in the future”.

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