Emi­rates to res­cue Air­bus with a ma­jor new ‘su­per­jumbo’ or­der

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Alan Tovey

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.

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