The $446 million Airbus A380 superjumbo is the largest and most expensive airliner in the world. Take a look inside.

  • The Airbus A380 superjumbo, the largest commercial airliner in history, will end its production run in 2021.
  • The A380 was once thought to have the potential to revolutionize air travel and rival the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
  • Instead, only 274 Airbus superjumbos have been ordered, and those in operation play more of a niche role for flights operating in high-congestion areas.
  • Emirates accounts for nearly half of all A380s sold, with 123 orders.
  • The A380 first flew in 2005 and entered service in 2007 with Singapore Airlines.
  • A while back, we had the chance to take a tour of one Etihad Airways‘ A380s.

The Airbus A380 is one of the most impressive and controversial airplanes in aviation history. And as the largest airliner in the world, the superjumbo is undoubtedly a technological wonder.

When the European planemaker dreamed up the A380 three decades ago, it was for an aircraft that would revolutionize air travel, with grand visions of unprecedented luxury for passengers and earnings power for airlines.

Things haven’t worked out quite as well as Airbus hoped. Instead of becoming the workhorse of airlines around the world, the A380 has become relegated to niche duty for high-traffic airports and markets with congestion issues.

This week, Airbus confirmed that production of the A380 would end in 2021. Airbus CEO Tom Enders cited the lack of orders as the reason for the shutdown.

Read more: The end is near for the Airbus A380 superjumbo jet. Here’s how it went from an airline status symbol to reject in just 10 years.

Although popular with passengers, just 274 A380s have been sold since the early 2000s, with nearly half of them – 123 – going to Dubai’s Emirates.

Through January, Airbus has delivered 234 A380s to airlines around the world.

Long-time Teal Group aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia expects only 17 more planes to be delivered as Airbus shutters the production line.

Some industry observers, including Aboulafia, have gone so far as to call it the biggest mistake in the history of Airbus. According to Aboulafia, the A380 is a poorly executed aircraft designed for a market that doesn’t really exist. As a result, the $25 billion that Airbus spent on the A380 program could have been better used elsewhere, like on a rival for Boeing’s next-generation 777X or on a true replacement for the aging 757, Aboulafia told Business Insider.

Read more: The iconic A380, the biggest airliner in the world, is going away forever – and that could be great news for Airbus.

Regardless, the superjumbo remains a truly impressive aircraft. The Airbus A380 is the company’s most expensive airliner, with a list price of $445.6 million. That’s more than $79 million more than Airbus’ second-priciest offering, the A350-1000. It’s nearly $43 million more than the Boeing 747-8 and $19.8 million more than Boeing’s next-generation 777-9.

A while back, Etihad Airways gave Business Insider access to one of its A380s on the tarmac at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Let’s take a closer look at Etihad’s Airbus A380 superjumbo:


The Airbus A380 made its maiden flight in 2005 …

source
Getty Images

… before entering service with Singapore Airlines in 2007.

source
Singapore Airlines

The superjumbo eventually joined the fleets of Emirates …

source
Emirates

… Lufthansa …

source
Lufthansa

… British Airways …


… China Southern …

source
Airbus

… Air France …

source
Airbus

… Korean Air …


… and Qantas, among others.

source
Qantas

Etihad took delivery of its first A380 in December 2014 and now operates a fleet of 10 superjumbos.

source
Hollis Johnson

The plane we toured, A6-APA, was actually the first A380 delivered to the airline.

source
Hollis Johnson

Here’s A6-APA at its delivery ceremony. At 239 feet long, 79 feet tall, and 262 feet from wingtip to wingtip, it’s massive.


In fact, the A380’s height requires multiple specialized catering trucks to stock its galleys.

source
Hollis Johnson

There were more catering trucks at the back of the aircraft.

source
Hollis Johnson

Underneath the A380 is a truly impressive landing gear that boasts 22 wheels on five bogies.

source
Hollis Johnson

This particular A380 is powered by a quartet of Engine Alliance GP7200 turbofan engines, each producing more than 70,000 pounds of thrust. Engine Alliance is a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and GE.

source
Hollis Johnson

Some A380s are also powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.

source
Hollis Johnson

Let’s step on board this beast.

source
Hollis Johnson

The economy-class cabin fills the entire main deck of the Etihad A380.

source
Hollis Johnson

Each of the 415 economy seats is 17.5 inches wide with 31 inches of seat pitch, the distance between two rows.

source
Hollis Johnson

Etihad’s recently updated seats come with 11-inch seatback touchscreens.

source
Hollis Johnson

Parents traveling in economy class with their children have access to Etihad’s in-flight nannies.

source
Etihad

If both decks are jam-packed with the economy seats, the A380 can fly with more than 800 passengers.

source
Etihad

Walk to the back main deck and you’ll come across the A380’s rear spiral staircase.

source
Hollis Johnson

Make your way up the stairs …

source
Hollis Johnson

… and you’ll find the business-class cabin.

source
Hollis Johnson

Each of the 70 business-class seats boasts 73 inches of seat pitch and folds flat into a bed at the touch of a button.

source
Hollis Johnson

Each seat is equipped with an 18.5-inch entertainment screen.

source
Hollis Johnson

Walk toward the front of the upper deck …

source
Hollis Johnson

… and you come up to the A380’s premium cabin lounge.

source
Hollis Johnson

According to Etihad, it’s designed to mimic the look and feel of a luxury hotel lounge where passengers can socialize and even watch live sporting events.

source
Hollis Johnson

Passengers can also grab a drink and a midflight snack.

source
Etihad

Emirates’ A380s have a lounge at the back of the upper deck, while Korean Air’s A380s have cocktail lounges at the front and the rear of the deck.

source
REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

Ahead of the lounge is the first-class cabin. Etihad’s A380s boast two types of private first-class suites. The first is called “The Apartment.”

source
Hollis Johnson

There are eight Apartment suites per A380.

source
Hollis Johnson

Each suite boasts about 45 square feet of space.

source
Hollis Johnson

They are all equipped with a seat …

source
Hollis Johnson

… and a divan that can be converted into a bed. The suites all feature 24-inch flat-screen TVs …

source
Hollis Johnson

… vanity mirrors …

source
Hollis Johnson

… and retractable dividers.

source
Hollis Johnson

The Apartment suites also have access to the shower at the front of the upper deck.

source
Hollis Johnson

But what sets Etihad’s fleet apartment apart from all other A380s is “The Residence.” There is only one Residence suite per aircraft, and tickets can cost more than $40,000 for a round trip between New York and Abu Dhabi.

source
Hollis Johnson

Why is it so expensive? Well, because The Residence is just that: a 125-square-foot home away from home aboard a plane, complete with a living room …

source
Hollis Johnson

… a private bathroom with a shower …

source
Hollis Johnson

… and a bedroom with a double bed.

source
Hollis Johnson

The bedroom is equipped with a 27-inch TV, while the living room gets a 32-inch unit.

source
Hollis Johnson

Each suite also comes with a personalized designer robe and…

source
Etihad

… the services of a private butler.

source
Etihad

Passengers traveling in The Residence also have access to a private lounge at the airport.

source
Hollis Johnson

Make your way down the front staircase, and you come upon the flight deck.

source
Hollis Johnson

The ultramodern cockpit boasts eight high-definition LCDs supplied by the French industrial giant Thales Group.

source
Hollis Johnson

Incredibly, this beast of an aircraft requires only two pilots to operate.

source
Hollis Johnson

Throttle up!

source
Hollis Johnson

Like all modern Airbus jets, the A380 uses sidestick controls as opposed to a traditional yoke.

source
Hollis Johnson

And that’s the end the of our tour. Enjoy your flight!

source
Hollis Johnson