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‘Bitter disappointment’ as Airbus ends superjumbo production

UK News | Published:

Union leaders said they will be seeking assurances on jobs and future work.

Unions have expressed “bitter disappointment” at news that Airbus is to cease production of its superjumbo A380 aircraft.

Unite, which represents workers at Airbus sites in Broughton, North Wales, and Filton, near Bristol, and those in supply chain companies such as GKN, said it would be seeking assurances on jobs and future work.

A few hundred staff in the UK work on the aircraft, mainly at Broughton, but it is hoped they can be redeployed.

The firm said it had made the “painful” decision after struggling to sell the world’s largest passenger jet and after Emirates chose to slash its A380 order book by around a quarter.

Due to the reduction and a lack of orders from other airlines, Airbus said it would end deliveries of the record-breaking plane in 2021, 14 years after it first entered commercial service.

Emirates is yet to take delivery of 14 of the double-decker aircraft, which has wings, engines and landing gear made in the UK.

Airbus said it would “start discussions with its social partners in the next few weeks regarding the 3,000 to 3,500 positions potentially impacted over the next three years”.

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It makes wings for the A380 in the UK, employing 6,000 staff at Broughton and 3,000 at Filton.

The firm said an increase in production of its A320 model would offer “a significant number of internal mobility opportunities”.

The Airbus A320
The Airbus A320 (Steve Parsons/PA)

“But, keep in mind that A380s will still roam the skies for many years to come and Airbus will of course continue to fully support the A380 operators.”

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Nearly 240ft long and with space for more than 500 passengers, the A380 took the title of world’s largest passenger jet from the Boeing 747 when it took its maiden commercial flight from Singapore to Sydney on October 27 2007.

The giant aircraft’s first commercial flight to Europe – a Singapore Airlines service – arrived at Heathrow on March 3 2008.

According to Airbus, the plane has flown more than 500,000 revenue flights and carried over 190 million passengers, with more than 300 commercial flights a day.

However concerns over the future of the superjumbo began to appear and in 2016 Airbus announced a drastic cut in production, reducing the build rate by half.

Airbus: main sites in UK.
(PA Graphics)

“Unite will be seeking urgent assurances from Airbus that there will be no job losses because of the decision to end production of the A380.

“We are of the firm belief that with a full order book in single-aisle planes, such as the A320, that our members affected can be redeployed on to other work in Airbus.

“Our members in the supply chain making many of the parts for the A380 are also our key concern. Over the coming days we will be engaging closely with companies such as GKN to ensure any impact is minimal as we offer our full support to some of the best aerospace workers in the world.”

Airbus declined to give details of the number of jobs that could be impacted.

Incoming chief executive Guillaume Faury told a media conference: “We are in the phase of analysing the situation and will have consultations with our partners.”

In a media conference following the announcement, outgoing chief executive Mr Enders said: “It’s certainly painful to take the decision after all the effort, after all the money, after all the sweat that many, many thousand employees, and the CEO occasionally, have poured into that programme.

“But in business, you have to base your decisions not on emotions or wishful thinking, but on facts.

“After Emirates’ decision to reduce their orders, we simply don’t have enough backlog to carry on much longer.

“What we’re seeing here is the end of the large four-engine aircraft.

“There has been speculation for years that we were 10 years too early, but probably we were 10 years too late, or more. In retrospect, it’s all easy.

“We are talking about the end of production of the A380, not the end of the programme.

“Airbus will support these 200/230 aircraft as long as our customers want to operate these aircraft.”

Mr Faury said: “We will work on securing the phase-out and we will do this in close co-operation with our social partners and in a very responsible manner.”

Airbus confirmed it hopes to redeploy a “significant” number of impacted staff to other aircraft programmes.

On the impact on British jobs, Mr Enders said: “It needs to be evaluated. It’s clear we make a lot of wings in Britain and a few wings for the A380. Hopefully we can redeploy a significant number of our employees there and re-use also the infrastructure.”

On Brexit, Mr Enders said he was a “little more optimistic” about a deal being reached.

He said: “The reason for hope is that we are getting signals – and I’m not going into details – that make me a little more optimistic that the worst can be prevented and that we’ll see a more orderly Brexit.”

Mr Enders added that the firm intends to “plan for the worst as much as we can and hope for the best”.

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