If You Build It, They Just Might Not Come

Attending a travel conference in Orlando Fl, I picked up the local Orlando Sentinel and read about people’s amazement at hosting the giant new Airbus A380 at their local airport. It’s as if the city of Orlando has gone out and bought a very expensive new dress for the prom–but they haven’t got a date.

That’s because it is very unlikely that this huge plane will ever land at Orlando again. Yet the airport has invested millions to accommodate its great bulk–widening taxiways, installing new ground lights, strengthening pavement and extending shoulders to fit the plane. The work has cost $14.5 million so far.

That’s not the only cost incurred to fit a plane that isn’t coming. Orlando Aviation Authorities began paying lobbyists in Washington and Tallahassee an extra $36,000 a year to help gain approval as an A380 destination.

But there isn’t enough overseas traffic to convince any of the planes owners to put the Florida city on the list. Lufthansa, for example, ordered 15 A380s and should begin flying in 2009, to NY, LA but not Florida. British Airways flies to Orlando, but there are not enough flights to Orlando to need the big plane that they will begin flying in 2012.

How about cargo? That plane can fit a lot of packages, right? NOT! Fed-Ex was planning to use the A380 to OIA where they have a big sorting faciility. But after last summer’s long delays, the company switched to Boeing 777s. So no matter how ready Orlando may be to recieve the world’s largest passenger jet, it doesn’t look like they’ll ever get the chance.