@ SATL382G: Airbus has stated a break-even of 250 frames for the A380, and has already sold 149 frames, excluding options. This means, they need another 101 firm orders to reach their break-even. Several orders are under negotiation, including the order from China Southern, which would lower the "to-be-needed" firm orders to 96. Several customers have inidcated that they are interested in converting options, including Lufthansa. Airbus itself predicts a market of about 1,200 frames until 2022, of which they expect to capture at least 750 frames - and that over a period of 20 years.
Noboday except of Airbus and the involved governments knows the exact way, how the loans will be payed back (the loans covered about 1/3 of the development costs, about 3.5 bn USD). In the past the usual way has been, that Airbus has to pay back the loan as soon as they turn a profit on the plane - which means that they first need to sell 250 frames, and after that the governments are paid back. In addition Airbus has to pay royalities for every frame sold - this means for the already sold frames as well. That means, when the loans have been payed back, the governments will still recieve money when Airbus sells an A380.
If we expect that an A380-800 sells at 180 million USD, and Airbus has costs (including royalities which I would set at 1 million USD per frame) of around 140 million USD, they turn a profit of 40 million per frame each. If we further assume that Airbus uses the complete profit to repay the loans, Airbus needs to sell 88 A380-800s to repay the loans. (for 30 million profit the number is 116, for 20 million it is 175, for 10 million it is 350 frames). Again, selling another 175 frames in addition to the 250 stated for break even (NOTE: we don´t know if the loan repayment has not already been included into the break-even figure, which could be possible) makes a total of 425 frames needed to be sold - and compare that to the estimated market of 1,500 frames of which Airbus wants to capture 750 frames.
In general we can say: governments are already payed back today, however the main repayment phase will be when Airbus breaks even on the A380. And this seems to be very, very likely. Thus it isn´t a "wellfare project", only subsidyzing the European industry to create jobs. It is a commercial project that has recieved repayable start-up financing.
@ Trevd: Just for your information: Hamburg-Finkenwerder is ONE Airbus plant out of 15 (Germany: Nordenham, Varel, Stade, Bremen; France: Toulouse, Nantes, Méaulte, St. Nazaire; Spain: Getafe, Ilescas, Puerto Real, UK: Broughton, Filton) Airbus plants in Europe. The 4,400 jobs created just attribute to the plant in Hamburg. All other German Airbus plants have added jobs as well (need to look up how many), at a time when many parts have been outsourced to subcontractors.
Even in Hamburg alone, subcontractors have added over 2,000 jobs in the past two years which can be directly attributed to the A380 production run-up, and another 2,000 will be added within the next 18 months. For example the Airbus Cabin Equipment Center, which will be run by a subcontractor. The MWZ, operated by another subcontractor, which will bundle the A380 parts logistics, is creating over 150 new jobs. And so on... That make in Hamburg alone about 8,400 jobs created by the A380 - and don´t forget, the production is just starting, and has not even remotely reached the expected out-put rate of around 3-4 frames a month. To be able to cope with this production rate, many companies will have to employ additional people.
Besides: the term "White Elefant" is usually attributed to failed infrastructure projects... not to planes.