When Airbus loaded one of its super-jumbo A380s with Wall Street analysts and flew it over New York two weeks ago, it was only the latest piece of evidence that the ginormous plane has fallen far short of expectations. Seven years after the A380’s debut, the number of U.S. carriers to take delivery of the 525-passenger aircraft stands at exactly zero.
“It’s just too big for most airlines and most routes,” said Brett Snyder, who tracks the airline industry at CrankyFlier.com. “The only airlines that really can use this airplane well are those in large, highly slot-restricted airports. British Airways should be the perfect target, but it only ordered a handful of these things.”
British Airways plus the nine other carriers that have ponied up for the plane have at least gotten marketing mileage from beauty shots of the luscious accommodations in first class. But the plane itself—which must be more than 65 percent full to make a profit—has been called everything from a “white elephant” to “one of the worst self-inflicted wounds in aerospace history.”
Sound familiar? The last time a plane was hailed as the future of aviation but ended up a flop was in 1976 with the debut of the Concorde—which proved that supersonic speed was as poor a match for mass-market travel as super-capacity is now. Below, a look at how much these very different-looking planes actually have in common.