European plane manufacturer Airbus said Thursday it will stop making its superjumbo A380 in 2021 for lack of customers, abandoning the world's biggest passenger jet and one of the aviation industry's most ambitious and most troubled endeavors. Barely a decade after the 500-plus-seat plane started carrying passengers, Airbus said in a statement that key client Emirates is cutting back its orders for the plane, and as a result, "we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production." The end of the young yet iconic jet is a boon for rival Boeing and an embarrassing blow for Airbus, a European economic powerhouse.
The decision threatens up to 3,500 jobs, and a pall of mourning hung in the atmosphere Thursday at Airbus headquarters in the southern French city of Toulouse, the AP reports. Still, Airbus announced Thursday a 29% jump in overall profits last year, and analysts said global demand is high enough for Airbus to weather the loss of its superjumbo. Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing's 747 and revolutionize air travel as more people take to the skies. Instead, airlines have been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it. The double-decker planes started flying in 2008. (Airbus plans to roll out sleeping berths in cargo holds next year.)