As an example, would you consider the Dunkirk evacuation a success or failure? Some would say that because they had to withdraw from Europe and was retreating and losing the battle it is a failure. But that evacuation helped them keep a lot of their forces they would use for future battles that helped win the war. If you are of the opinion that the A380 was a total failure then you should have the same opinion about the successful evacuation of all those thousands of troops, a big fat failure.
Well, no, one does not call a retreat a failure simply because it's a retreat. One must evaluate the tactical situation and make decisions based on the scenario one faces. The Dunkirk evacuation was probably the best possible decision given the facts on the ground at the time.
Contrast that with the A380 program: it was based on a delusional market forecast -- total available market of ~2000 frames over 20 years. The market forecast was largely engineered to justify launching the program which in some part existed to stroke European egos -- ours is bigger than yours. Airbus did a poor job of evaluating the tactical situation and blew billions of euros on a product with a wildly overestimated market. Worse yet, the CATIA screw-up cost them billions more. Launching A380 was not a good decision given the realities of the market at the time and the actual direction the market was heading.
Really, the only Dunkirk-like decision with respect to the A380 which one might call a success was the decision to end the program -- because it finally was a rational response to the utter lack of demand for A380 outside of one difficult customer.
I wonder if other equally questionable statements made by A or B bosses over the years had/ would have resulted in as popular a thread as this one (or even merited a thread being created in the first place)
Sure! I can remember a notorious occasion where Noel Forgeard called the 787 a "cheap Chinese copy" of the A330.
Imagine in what hole Airbus would have found themselves if the CATIA FUBAR would have hit the A350 and/or A320neo program(s)
Believe it or not, I think the CATIA screw-up would have had less or equal impact on A350 or A320neo simply because those aircraft are smaller and less complex. The size and customization of each A380 made the rewiring process that much more involved for each of the affected aircraft.
I have always wondered, if Boeing had not done the 748, would all or most of the 47 748 passenger orders gone to the 380? If so would that have been enough to gain some momentum for the program and prevent some or most of the 380 cancellations? Or at least made it possible for Airbus not lose so much money? Was this part of Boeings motivation for the 748?
I think the 748 was largely driven by Boeing's evaluation of the cargo business and discussions with customers in that space. The 748i wasn't a huge effort if they were going to be developing the freighter and there were some customers who had expressed interest. IMO the 747-8 program would be viewed overall as a modestly successful derivative if Boeing hadn't screwed up the development program but they did so instead it lost the company money.
Let's imagine for a minute that a 2030 A380neo would have a 50% fuel burn advantage, burning about the same as an A359 today, ie 6 tons per hour.
A fare that used to be 500$ becomes 350$, the market expands because more people can afford to fly.
I'm not sure why you think those same advantages in fuel efficiency wouldn't extend to every single type on the market. In fact, it's far more likely that new, highly-efficient propulsion systems would first be used on narrowbodies or smaller widebodies simply because those markets are far, far larger. RR/PW/GE/CFM would be far more interested in market segments with potential sales of 3000 engines annually versus 200.
What's certain is that the upward arc of numbers travelling was severely hit closely after the A380 program launch, and also closely after EIS. Airbus would have had a hard time predicting 9/11 and the subsequent slowdown that killed carriers (and also killed the return of Concorde after a year or two). The A380 launched at the end of 2000 IIRC. EIS with Singapore was in 2007, and a year later along came the GFC. A lot of the growth momentum in travel was lost, the upward arc Airbus predicted in the 90s flattened out somewhat - generally upward but with all the predictions now well out of whack. While we can only guess at how much was actually lost, any increase at all would bring it closer to their predictions. Historical events dealt the entire aviation market a bad hand in the noughties, all programs suffered and niche ones fared the worst.
What's absolutely certain is that the airline industry is hit with periodic shocks, and those shocks were no less common before 2000 than after. Before 2000 we had oil price shocks in the late 1970s, a deep recession in the early 1980s, the Lockerbie bombing, the Gulf War in 1990-1991, and the late 1990s Asian economic flu. One could even argue that the bust of the early aughts should have been a mild boost to the A380s prospects in that smaller independent competitors like SR, SN, TW, etc. were knocked out of the market or forced to consolidate with larger groups of carriers.
I think Airbus overestimated demand from Asia and underestimated the ability of Asian countries to build infrastructure.
The "line" at the time was that demand for air travel in Asia was about to explode (which it did), but unlike in Europe and the U.S. airport construction kept pace with the growth. As a result those markets which Airbus envisioned needing the A380 were being served by smaller aircraft and mainly by LCC's.
The LCC revolution more than anything killed the A380, IMO. At the time (pre-2000), airlines like Singapore Airlines and others were operating 400+ seat 744's on short 1-2-hour hops. If you visited Narita or Kai Tak in those days, most gates were occupied with 747's. That was the the world we lived in, pre 2000.
But by 2000 it was also obvious that Asian nations were indeed moving forward with improvements to their infrastructure. Hong Kong opened Chek Lap Kok before the 1999 handover to the Chinese, ICN was nearly done by 2000 (it opened in 2001), and it was abundantly obvious that the Japanese government was willing to play the long game with respect to expansion at Narita. Construction of Pudong started in 1997 in response to congestion at Hongqiao and it was plain from the start that the new airport was planned with plenty of expansion in mind. KLIA opened in the late 1990s and planning for the new BKK (to replace DMK) was well underway by 2000; the project was delayed by the aforementioned Asian economic flu. And in China specifically, it has long been clear that the government is willing to move forward with large infrastructure projects regardless of the number of citizens who might live in the way -- the Three Gorges Dam should be one of the easiest examples to cite.
So... they didn't pay attention to the fact that Asian airport infrastructure was being upgraded more effectively than in larger, more mature markets.