Emirates to rescue Airbus with a major new ‘superjumbo’ order
AIRBUS’S troubled A380 airliner will be thrown a lifeline when Gulf carrier Emirates places a multi-billion dollar order for the “superjumbo” jets.
The deal will help keep production of the double-decker aircraft running for several years and assist in maintaining supply chains.
Airbus, which makes the wings for the A380 at its site in Broughton, North Wales, has announced a series of cuts to the rate it turns out the poorly selling jet. By 2019 just eight will be con- structed each year under current plans. Announcement of the order is expected to come at the Dubai air show which starts today.
Sources close to the pan-european aerospace business say it is likely to be for 17 aircraft, worth between $7bn and $8bn (£5.3bn-£6.1bn), though with options the order could eventually be higher.
Emirates is the biggest customer for the A380, having taken delivery of its 100th aircraft earlier this month. The carrier already has a further 42 A380s on order. Airbus has struggled to find buyers for the A380, having handed over 217 of the 317 it has taken orders for. However, some buyers are not expected to honour their agreements and with no new buyers in the past year the programme’s future is in doubt. Alex Macheras, aviation analyst, said: “Emirates is the one airline that has been able to get the best out of the A380 with its many long-haul routes. Passengers seek out the A380 and the airline has been able to work with that.”
Tim Clark, Emirates president, has previously expressed interest in the concept of an “A380neo” – a modernised jet with more efficient engines – but the huge expense of developing the aircraft held back Airbus from going ahead with it. At the Paris air show in the summer, Airbus revealed an “A380plus” with winglets and new aerodynamics to reduce fuel consumption by 4pc. However, introducing a more efficient A380 could drive down the value of the current model and Mr Clark has warned Emirates “does not want to be left with aircraft that have no value”. Mr Macheras added: “The A380 needs more orders to be sustainable and Airbus has met Emirates halfway with the A380plus.”
The list price for an A380 is $437m, though airlines usually secure discounts. With the A380 facing a dearth of customers and Mr Clark’s concerns, Emirates may get them at a much lower price than normal. The first A380 to go into service was retired this week. The jet, which first took passengers on board in 2007, was returned by operator Singapore Airlines to the European leasing company which owns it.
Airbus said it did not comment on commercial matters. Emirates was unavailable for comment.