Emirates A380 orders allow Airbus to maintain minimum production - COO

Gladys Abbott
January 21, 2018

Lagging sales of the 500-passenger Airbus superjumbo had put its future in doubt, but this order will keep it in production for the foreseeable future.

At the Paris Airshow in June 2017, Airbus presented an updated version of the A380 featuring new fuel saving winglets in what was the latest initiative to help improve the aircraft's operating economics and perhaps attract new orders for the program.

The Airbus 380, the world's largest passenger airliner, has been saved from extinction by a dramatic last minute order by Emirates. To date, 222 have been delivered to 13 airlines, nearly half of that total to Emirates Airlines.

"We've made no secret of the fact that the A380 has been a success for Emirates. Our customers love it, and we have been able to deploy it on different missions across our network, giving us flexibility in terms of range and passenger mix".

The European planemaker said Emirates had placed a provisional order for 20 of the double-decker superjumbos, with an option for 16 more.

The airline said that it will use some of its new A380s as fleet replacements.

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According to industry analysts, the problems with the A380 stem from competition with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that, though it is a smaller aircraft, is seen as more comfortable and provides more frequent flights per day that are easier to fill rather than a few huge A380 loads that aren't as easy to fully book.

Sheikh Ahmed said Emirates would continue to work closely with Airbus to "further enhance the aircraft and onboard product".

The agreement calls for Emirates to take six aircraft a year for a decade as Airbus looks for other A380 business, filling a gap in planned production, a person familiar with the deal said. Emirates runs 101 of the 222 A380s in operation worldwide. This ensures an extra lease of life for the production line and gives Airbus additional breathing space to secure additional orders. If Airbus indeed sticks to a six-per-year production rate, now that a potential 131 A380s are in backlog, production could carry on an additional 18.5 years beyond 2020, to 2038-another two decades.

Calling time on the A380 would not have caused major financial damage to Airbus, but would have been "emotionally expensive", a company source said. Half of those came from Emirates.

"If we can not work out a deal with Emirates, I think there is no choice but to shut down the program", sales chief John Leahy told reporters on Monday.

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