It sounds intuitive: As air travel grows, so must aircraft. This mind-set has persisted for years and was the rationale for the Airbus A380’s launch in 2000. Even though demand for this jet and for Boeing’s 747-8 has been disappointing, many still say that growth will one day create a market. In April, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said of the A380’s dismal orderbook: “This plane was probably launched 10 years too early.” But the actual numbers tell ...

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