Emirates Airlines President Tim Clark has lashed out at Airbus over its handling of A380 wing cracks, saying the airline will seek compensation for a claimed $90 million in lost revenues.
Emirates is having to temporarily ground six of its 21 A380s at a time while the wing cracks are fixed. Clark told the Financial Times that cracks have been found in 10 A380s so far and that all 21 are likely to need work.
“From a commercial point of view, it’s a dreadful experience,” Clark told the newspaper. “It has caused a lot of commercial hardship and we are not very happy with the way this has gone.”
Clark said Airbus had initially been in denial about the extent of the problem though he said it was now reacting appropriately. Airbus parent EADS this week said it had allocated 105 million euros to cover the cost of repairing all 67 A380s currently in service.
The hairline cracks, first discovered in the wing of a Qantas A380, affect L-shaped brackets connecting metal ribs with the wing interior. Airbus said the cracks were discovered long before they posed any safety risks, but European regulators last month ordered inspections on all A380s once they reach 1300 flights.
Like Airbus, airlines have insisted the cracks pose no threat, but Clark’s comments were a clear indication of simmering frustration over an issue that threatens to undermine passenger confidence. Qantas flies a fleet of 12 A380s as its flagship jet, making it the third largest A380 operator behind Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
Airbus did receive a vote of confidence from a surprising source on Thursday, with Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker saying the A380 problems were a normal part of the launch of any new aircraft. Al Baker is well known as an often scathing critic of aircraft manufacturers.
“I think they will solve the problems with the A380,” he told Reuters. “It is not a big issue. It is an aircraft that is in its infancy.”
Qatar Airways, however, has yet to take delivery on any of the 10 A380s it has on order. Emirates operates the world’s largest A380 fleet and has 69 more of the jets on order.