The commercial aviation world got a bit smaller today when Airbus delivered the last of its giant A380 airliners. The plane, which rolled out of the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France, in September, will join the Emirates fleet as that airline's 123rd A380.
In a statement, Emirates President Tim Clark praised the A380 as a truly special aircraft. "For Emirates, it gave us the opportunity to redefine the travel experience. ... The A380 will remain Emirates' flagship product for the coming years, and a vital pillar of our network plans."
The largest commercial airplane ever built, the double-decker A380 was Airbus' bid to muscle past the Boeing 747, which had created the era of mass air travel. With two full passenger decks, it could it could carry about 555 people, depending on the configuration, with a range of 8,000 nautical miles, or 9,200 miles. Other facts about the plane, like its 310 miles of wiring and the complicated process for building the plane, were just as groundbreaking.
Emirates, long the largest A380 customer, made the airliner its flagship by installing features like premium class lounges and showers. Other carriers added their own posh comforts, like Etihad's first-class suite with separate living area and bedroom.
But for all advancements and the quiet and smooth ride it offered to all passengers (even in the back), the A380 had a remarkably short life as airliners go. Most are in production for decades -- Boeing built the 747 for more than half a century -- but the A380's assembly line was open only for 15 years with only 251 built.
For most airlines, the A380 was just too expensive, costing almost $500 million each. And while its mammoth size served Emirates' hub-and-spoke business model through Dubai, most other airlines opted for smaller planes like the Boeing 777 or Airbus A350 that could fly fewer people between more cities with a cheaper operating cost.
Though the pandemic struck another blow by parking many A380s around the world, airlines are beginning to return them to service as travel resumes. So even though the last A380 has been built, you'll still have a chance to fly in one for years to come.