Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier says the company is committed to a developing an upgraded A380 with new engines and a longer fuselage.
Bregier says there is plenty of potential to build an A380neo, or New Engine Option, at some point in the future. However, no timeframe was given for the launch of that product.
“We will one day launch an A380neo and I will tell you a secret, we will one day launch a stretch of the A380,” Bregier said during an Airbus investor presentation in London on Thursday.
“It is so obvious that there is extra potential and the market is growing in size.”
The double-decker superjumbo, which made its commercial debut with Singapore Airlines in 2007, currently has 318 orders from 19 customers.
Bregier said the A380 program was “almost fully booked” for the next three years.
“We will get additional customers on the A380,” he said.
“We have to find ways to convince more customers that there is much more upside with the A380 than there is the downside due to the market situation.”
Bregier’s commitment to building an A380neo comes amid a lack of new orders for the the aircraft in recent times.
The A380 was expected to reach breakeven in 2015 on production of 30 aircraft a year but its future beyond 2018 was thrown into doubt on Wednesday when Airbus Group chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm raised the prospect of cancelling the program.
“We will go to the breakeven next year, we can stay at the breakeven in ’16 and ’17 thanks to the backlog and all of the effort in terms of recurring cost in terms of fixed cost reduction,” Wilhelm said of the A380.
Wilhelm said the A380 program would stay at or close to breakeven in 2018 “with the current product, if we would do something on the product or even if we would discontinue the product”.
“I think that is an important statement,” Wilhelm said.
Airbus chief operating office for customers John Leahy said the any potential launch of an A380neo had to have a strong business case.
Leahy said he was currently conducting four campaigns for incremental A380 orders with existing customers.
“The airplane has great economics right now,” Leahy said.
Emirates president Tim Clark has been pushing for Airbus to build a A380neo, with more efficient engines, a stretched fuselage and improved aerodynamics.
Currently, Emirates is the A380s largest customer with 55 in service and orders for a further 85.
Clark said recently the A380 was essential to enable airlines to handle the expected growth in passenger traffic in the years ahead and committed Emirates to buying the A380neo.
“We will buy 140 of the A380neos,” Clark said.
“As long as I am around I am going to continue to fight the battle for the A380. This is a great aircraft and the world needs it.”
Meanwhile, Bregier said Airbus was expecting to deliver the first A350 to launch customer Qatar Airways before the end of 2014.
“I am pretty confident we will deliver as planned the first aircraft in December,” Bregier said.
On Tuesday, Qatar postponed delivery of the first A350, without giving a reason.