For aircraft, it turns out, bigger isn't always better.
And so the world is looking past the age of the Boeing (BA) 747 and the Airbus A380, the two VLAs -- very large aircraft -- that have long captured its imagination.
"The very large aircraft market is dead -- at least for now," aerospace consultant Scott Hamilton wrote Monday in his online publication, Leeham News and Comment.
Even the successors to the 747 and the A380 are not roping in the orders, Hamilton said.
"Although Boeing has the 405-425 passenger 777-9, Airbus ponders a competing airplane and Boeing considers a 450 passenger 777-10, it doesn't appear that airlines are rushing to this size aircraft -- not at all," he wrote.
"The favorite appears to be 300-370 passengers, and even the higher end is currently struggling," he said. "Boeing is likely to decide no later than next year if it will proceed with the 777-10.
Airbus is watching what happens before deciding what it will do."
The Boeing 747 first flew for Pan American World Airways in 1970; it can carry 416 passengers in a typical three-class configuration. Boeing has sold about 1,500 of them.
Boeing, which now plans to make just six 747s annually, said in a regulatory filing last month that it may end production.
The Airbus A380 first flew for Singapore Airlines in 2007. It can carry 525 passengers in three classes. Airbus has sold about 319 of them and delivered 190.
The A380's biggest customer, Emirates, has provided a discouraging prognosis for the aircraft's future. Emirates CEO Tim Clark said he has been rebuffed in his efforts to convince Toulouse, France-based Airbus to develop an upgraded A380 neo.
"I can't force Toulouse to do anything," Clark told reporters in June, according to Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National. "My main concern is that they stop producing the plane."
For now, Hamilton said, Airbus is sticking with it.
"Airbus stubbornly continues to believe airport congestion at the world's principal hubs will get so bad, a revival of the A380 will happen," Hamilton said.
Airbus has 123 A380s on backlog. Emirates, which flies about 81 A380s, has 61 of the orders. It's not clear that airlines holding the remaining 62 orders will want to take delivery.
As for the Boeing 747-8, the backlog is only 20 aircraft, half freighters and half passenger aircraft. At the Farnborough Air Show in July, Volga Dnepr's Air Bride Cargo unit said it would order 20 aircraft, but so far the order has not been posted to Boeing's Web site.
As for future very large aircraft, Boeing lists 306 orders for the 777-9. Because the first delivery isn't until 2019 or 2020, the first two years of delivery are already committed, and fuel prices are low, "there is no hurry to order the airplane," Hamilton said.
Airbus could develop a larger A350 with perhaps 400 passengers, but "Airbus is not yet convinced there is a market for the airplane," Hamilton said. "Given the dearth of sales for the 777-9 and the A350-1000, the skepticism is understandable."
Meanwhile, Boeing hasn't said whether it will develop a 777-10, which would carry 450 to 475 passengers,