The Australian carrier Qantas has canceled an outstanding order for eight Airbus A380 airplanes that it had ordered in 2006, adding to the uncertainty about the fate of the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
Qantas said in a statement on Thursday that it would instead upgrade the 12 A380 planes that it already has, adding that “these aircraft have not been part of the airline’s fleet and network plans for some time.”
Airbus has already said that the giant plane’s days could be numbered, acknowledging last January that it would have to end production if Emirates, its only major customer, did not order more.
A bet that airport congestion and increased international travel would lead to demand for larger planes, the A380 was pitched as a way for airlines to transport more passengers with limited landing slots. The aircraft has a capacity to carry more than 500 passengers.
Instead, the industry shifted toward using smaller airports, a move that favored Airbus’s main competitor, Boeing, and other makers of smaller, midsize planes that are cheaper to maintain.
In an emailed statement on Thursday, Airbus said it had “agreed to the contract amendment announced by Qantas.”
The double-decker A380 costs on average $445.6 million and boasts amenities like showers, first-class suites and a bar, but it has been a loss maker for Airbus. And the company’s chief operating offer, John Leahy, admitted in January 2018 that without an order from Emirates, which owns a fleet of 105, A380 production would be shut down.
The jumbo jet was given a lifeline days later when Emirates put in a $16 billion order for as many as 36 of the planes. But this deal appears to be up in the air too: Airbus confirmed at the end of January that it was in discussions with the Dubai-based airlines about the A380 contract. Emirates already owns 105 A380s. On Thursday, Airbus declined to comment on those talks.