an A380 airplane arriving at the airport
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In 2005, Airbus made headlines when it introduced the A380.

At the time, the double-decker aircraft was heralded as a travel revolution. It was going to provide a new, luxurious experience for passengers — a quiet and smooth flight, akin to a cruise ship. But less than 10 years after the first A380 was put into service, the project is in danger of being shut down.

Over the past 13 years, Airbus has only produced 222 of the $400-million aircraft — more than half of which have been delivered to Emirates.

The manufacturer was banking on another Emirates deal to materialize in November. However the airline instead chose to order 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

In order to keep the airplane in production, Airbus said it needs to produce six A380s every year.

“If we can’t work out a deal with Emirates there is no choice but to shut down the program,” Jim Leahy, Airbus’s sale director, said on Monday.

While passengers love the aircraft, airlines are more reserved. The plane’s biggest selling point (its size) could in fact be what kills the project. The A380 is expensive to operate and its sheer size limits the airports at which it can land. Because of this, airlines operate the A380 less frequently than its smaller counterparts and it typically only flies from hub airport to hub airport.

Side view of an A380
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Meanwhile, the aviation industry is moving towards operating more frequent flights between smaller destination airports. Airlines are increasingly looking towards longer and thinner aircraft — like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus’s A320neo — to operate these flights.

This past year has been a death knell for former legendary jumbo jets. Both United and Delta retired their final Boeing 747 aircraft and the manufacturer announced that it could shut down production. When the 747 premiered in 1969, it garnered similar fanfare to the A380 and earned the nickname “Queen of the Skies” for its unrivaled size.