"The A380 is over" declares Emirates president

With the superjumbo stricken by coronavirus, Emirates president Sir Tim Clark performs last rites.

By David Flynn, May 7 2020

Airbus will stop production of the A380 in 2021, but the president of superjumbo stalwart Emirates has already performed last rites on a jet that's clearly too large for the new norm of a cash-strapped airlines and a significantly smaller global travel market.

“We know the A380 is over" Emirates president Sir Tim Clark declared earlier this week, although for balance he also allowed that the Boeing 747 had similarly seen its day.

"But the A350 and the 787 will always have a place,” Clark told The National, positing a future that belongs to fuel-efficient twin-engine jets, at least where long-range flying and the global networks of hub-based airlines was concerned.

Emirates currently lists 115 Airbus A380s in its fleet, all of which are grounded, and a sweeping fleet review has moved the Airbus A350 (50 on order), Boeing 787-9 (30 on order) and Boeing 777X (126 on order) to centre-stage.

However, with a slow recovery ahead, Clark said the new jets "may not be ordered soon, they may have orders deferred and pushed back, but eventually they will come back, and they will be a better fit probably for global demand in the years post the pandemic."

Emirates has grounded most of its fleet, including all of its Airbus A380s.
Emirates has grounded most of its fleet, including all of its Airbus A380s.

“We have just got to accept that in the next year or two, perhaps a bit longer, demand for air travel is going to be tempered in many respects,” Clark said.

“What emerges from this will be in my view almost perhaps 20 or 30 per cent less than what we were experiencing prior to the coronavirus kicking in."

Clark agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic is an industry-changing 'black swan event'. 

"If you go back to any of the major interventions, disruptions that the world has faced since the Second World War; if you took the aggregate of all of those, they wouldn’t be the equivalent to what has happened here. It’s hugely serious and it’s devastating for the business. I don’t see any way forward at the moment.”

The International Air Transport Association estimates the pandemic will cost airlines at least $490 billion this year in lost revenue, and will require over $300 billion in government aid to keep airlines from collapsing.

“Had the natural laws of supply and demand survival of the fittest worked, I think we would have seen the culling of many airlines, " Clark reflected. "I thought about 85 per cent would go bust had there been no state intervention."

"State intervention has kept that from happening and it has stopped some of the smaller carriers going out of existence. How long that will go on for I don’t know. I am still not optimistic about the survivability of quite a few carriers.”

Also read: Facing challenges before the outbreak, Emirates' golden years are gone


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

14 Apr 2013

Total posts 327

:-( a very sad reality

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 123

He is the Alan Joyce of the UAE, and EY is his VA...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 478

Well put...

24 Jan 2020

Total posts 5

Well said in just a few words! It's no wonder that EK and QF are in strategic partnership with each other, yet EY and VA are just trying to keep up with the pace of others. But what makes me feel foolish is that for many years I was a very big supporter of the wrong camp. Oh well, I'm now paying the price for my ill judgement ...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Dec 2013

Total posts 2

His views may be a bit pessimistic. People have short memories and once a vaccine is in place travel demand will be back with a vengeance!

I wonder what would happen to Emirates fleet of A380's?

07 May 2020

Total posts 2


115 A380's sitting on the ground with no party to go to! What are they going to do with all that metal?.

07 May 2020

Total posts 4

I know this sounds really selfish ( probably is) but I am really going to miss the bar!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jun 2016

Total posts 44

not to mention the shower......

20 Oct 2017

Total posts 3

The A-380 is a "White Elephant" offering from Airbus. Bang for the buck is the 747-8F, it is built to haul freight and passengers for which the 777X will soon replace.

10 Jun 2018

Total posts 18

From Airbus' point of view, cutting Boeing's cash cow 747 out of the air meant it didn't have enough money to undertake a proper replacement of the 737. The cheap and nasty 737max might not hsve happened if the 747 cash cow was still being milked.

In addition, getting major airlines from all Boeing to some Boeing and some Airbus was all to the advantage of Airbus.

It's almost like the A380 was like the loss leader tactic that retailers use: get something good and cheap to attract customers into your store, starve the opposition of cash flow and make a profit on other products.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 168

Interesting isn't it. Many of us remember flying the A380 for the first time and being blown away by the offering. Not just it's girth and size, but, the offering for Premium passengers. I enjoyed it while it was there, the luxury for passenger (those lucky to be up the front) comfort and space. As Ned said, 'Such is life'. Cheers.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 207

Very quickly we will see people start to fly again as soon as they are allowed. Too many small voices putting their scared opinions on the majority. The human race must not stand still, we love to roam the earth and a simple virus will not stop us. The numbers will return and the A380 will be used again. Even before the grounding, the move was to more efficient aircraft. The virus will not stop the A380 being used again, it will just stop many being ordered in the future.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 168

Indeed, Richard, the A380 will fly again. However, it's future is limited.

It's not about the desire to roam, or the freedom to do so, it is about economies of scale. Business spend will be radically overhauled and sovereign nations, not airlines, will choose when their citizens can fly and where. The A380 is simply not an economic choice post Covid-19.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 207

International travel will start far quicker than many of the scared minority will want. It will be sovereign nations which dictate this. Many countries will literally be bankrupt without travel and tourism. Borders will open to keep the majority alive not closed to save a few.

13 Dec 2014

Total posts 3

Hang on... is there really no place for a capacious aircraft when social distancing is a prerequisite for dealing with the public?


16 Nov 2011

Total posts 595

The problem and this isn't just the A380 but all planes is if you have to have social distancing prices will need to go up significantly which in turn will effect demand which will effect price.

So not really as simple as just using an A380 instead of a 777 and leave more seats empty.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 23

I have to agree with macmozzie - selfish or not (and it is), I too am going to miss Emirate's A380 bar - it really was (and I guess still is) a significant point of difference. I flew J class to/from MEL/LAX in January on QF's A380 and it was utterly horrible! Not only were the seats crap (and still 2-2-2), but not having that bar to go to (even if it was just to stretch your legs and knock down a bag of mini M&Ms) was strangely unsettling. Okay I know there are worse things in the world than not having a bar to go to on a flight, but hey - it was nice (while it lasted)!

I think flying will rebound very quickly once a vaccine is found. We live in very consumer driven world where everyone expects instant holidays which have never been so affordable for everyone in the West and the fast developing East. People will be so feed up being cooped up at home there will be huge pent up demand to travel. Everyone I have spoken to can't wait to get away and we will also have a whole year of people who had to defer holiday plans until next year in addition to those who were originally planning to travel next year. There is going to also be that feeling of “if we don't travel now, who knows what's around the corner”. Again, many people I have spoken to that have put off that holiday to see that once in a lifetime destination now have it clearly in their sights once this is all over. I know personally I won't be taking any opportunities to travel for granted again. And if a number of airlines do go out of business then there will be less aircraft/seats available. You never know, high capacity A380's might end up being in demand.

23 Jul 2017

Total posts 98

"If you took the aggregate (of all of those dramatic events since WWII), they wouldn't be the equivalent to what has happened here. It's hugely serious and it's devastating for the business." So the situation will be very different in the future for travel, particularly if going abroad. This is so different - a combination of major economic downturns and worse, a virus with unknown long-term impact and on whom.

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 79

He may be right but it's not because of the coronavirus. The age of the hub-and-spoke airline only had a few years left before it was wiped out by Sunrise-style point-to-point travel. This crisis just killed the remaining few years of that model.

It doesn't help that transit airports are now seen as threatening disease concentrators rather than glamorous places to stop for a drink and a few Instagrams.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2018

Total posts 15

A380's being such costly machines will need to be used until technically outdated. With fuel prices being so low, this aircraft model can make still some economical sense. I am also being more optimistic that international air travel will return much faster than currently expected. Of course it will take a multitude of clever solutions, ranging from the obvious one, a vaccine, to vastly improved hygiene processes (sanitising) all the way to the already tested and installed ionizer (Aviation Clear Air). I am unsure if Ozone gas could also be used within aircraft cabins, if yes, it would provide an efficient and non toxic way to eliminate most bacteria and viruses and could be easily generated on board without the need to store such gas in bottles avoiding additional weight and any other side effects storing gas in bottles at 40000 feet.

Covid19 could in fact be seen as igniter to see air travel being greatly improved......how often did we get a cold or flu after being trapped for hours in an aircraft. The achievers in this world are solution driven and all it takes to find the right solutions and yes quite possibly outside the normal square.

Of course if all efforts fail, these amazing mega planes would make wonderfull Highway Diners or a Hotel chain.....most iconic, instead of just letting them sit in some desert and playing the back drop for the next US blockbuster.

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