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Pazar, 26 Mayıs 2024

Operating Costs Killing Jumbo Jets As Airlines Profit From Smaller Planes

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Pilot skill helped a packed Air France A380 survive an engine explosion and emergency landing last week. But that may not be enough to ensure the survival of the superjumbo species, as millions of flyers, Millennial and otherwise, have prioritized price over luxury. Meanwhile, even skeptics like Warren Buffett, who called the airlines a "deathtrap" for investors, are buying stock–as long as the carriers stick to their new-found fiscal responsibility.
 
For years, it was thought millions of passengers would travel each year in giant “Queens of the Sky” capable of holding 500 passengers, like the 747 and later the Airbus A380.
 
With over 1500 built, the 747 had a great run, carrying a total of over 3.5 billion passengers as of 2014. But today, only 489 747s are still in service, many in cargo configuration.
 
 
The current heavyweight champion is the A380, which boasts a maximum takeoff weight of 1.235 million, versus the 747-8’s 987,000.  The 747-8 can carry 467 passengers, while the A380 holds 500 and can go up to 800 in some configurations. Even more impressive, the A380-800 has a design range of 8,500 nautical miles and currently serves the second- and third-longest non-stop scheduled flights in the world.
 
However, these may ultimately be meaningless distinctions, as the airlines have realized that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Since its first flight in 2005, only 215 of the huge planes have been delivered, 97 of them to Emirates Airlines. The A380 has been repeatedly characterized as a money-loser for Airbus Industries.
 
What is KO’ing the current kings of the sky isn’t mechanical issues or shifting passenger preferences (who wouldn’t prefer a giant comfy plane with a bar) but that age-old culprit, the dismal science of economics.
 
The A380 burns a lot of fuel considering its weight and four-engine configuration, but airlines are dropping the giant plane even in a time of low fuel costs. In 2017, Singapore Airlines retired several of the craft. In 2016, Qantas cancelled an order for 8, and even home team Air France dropped two planes from an order of 12. The A380is essentially on deathwatch, with production set to drop to below one per month if new orders don’t arrive. Even the plane’s signature sweeping staircase may face the budget-cutters’ ax.
 
Why are airlines dropping the A380 even when fuel is cheap? Operating costs. Estimates are that operating A380s costs between $26,000 and $29,000 per hour. By contrast, an average flight on an American Airlines 737-800, which can hold 160-175 passengers and has a range of about 2900 miles, costs $2,180 per hour.

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