Orders dwindling and an airline market moving more and more toward fuel efficient airplanes, how long are the 747 and A380 going to stick around?
We are now into October and the 747-8 has only racked up 4 orders this year, and delivered a mere 6 aircraft. Once the queen of the skies, more 747's seem to be retired every year now than are added. The 4 engine, first double decker aircraft, was first built in the late 60's, it has seen it's hay day come and go. While the 747-8I has seen some minor traction from Lufthansa and Korean Air, those are the two largest operators of the plane type. Lufthansa only operates 19 and Korean Air a scant 10 planes. This does not bode well for the future of the plane.
The A380 is a different story, but is seeing similar problems. The A380's success has been almost entirely due to Emirates Airline. Emirates operates 2 aircraft types almost exclusively, the A380 and the 777. Emirates is the largest operator of both types in the world. Beyond Emirates, the A380 is having problems. Malaysia Airlines has been trying to get ride of their A380s with no success, considering now to wet lease since no one seems interested in a purchase.
While the A380 has a decent backlog right now, the orders just are not coming in any more. With 125 aircraft yet to be delivered, the A380's big problem is much the same as the 747, orders just aren't there. Last year the A380 saw a scant 2 orders, and this year has seen 0 aircraft orders.
It seems Airbus bet big on massive passenger transport with the A380 and lost. Boeing refit the 747 to the -8 version in an attempt to compete with the A380, they also have lost. Companies are now pushing forward with smaller but highly efficient aircraft like the 787 and the A350. Both of these aircraft have order backlogs greater than 700 aircraft. These new breed of planes are capable of servicing destinations that were not previously profitable due to the high fuel cost of planes prior to this new generation.
Increased fuel efficiency has made many more destinations profitable and that means more destinations to choose from. Meanwhile we seem to be seeing the death of the jumbo jets. These planes will continue to service high capacity routes, but these routes are not as plentiful as those serviced by their smaller brothers.
This is exactly why I chose to fly the British Airways 747-400, I've never had the chance to fly the queen of the skies, and I may not have too many more opportunities.