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Airlines “need” the A380 says Emirates boss

written by Geoffrey Thomas | December 11, 2014
Emirates A380s at Dubai. (Rob Finlayson)
Emirates A380s at Dubai. (Rob Finlayson)

The chief of the world’s largest international airline has criticised his competitors for not buying more A380 super jumbos as Airbus hints at closing down the production line in 2018.

Emirates president Tim Clark has warned that with air travel due to double in the next 10 years to seven billion passengers a year, airlines and airports will need giant aircraft like the 500-seat class A380.

Clark’s warning follows a Bloomberg report that Airbus CFO Harald Wilhelm told investors in London on Wednesday that Airbus is considering closing the A380 line because of a lack of orders. 

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“The A380 is a passenger magnet. We operate five a day from Dubai to London’s Heathrow and they are 95 per cent full,” Clark said.

“Airlines are too conservative and have not put the right interiors into their A380s.

Some of the interiors are a disgrace and use 1970s thinking,” Clark offered.

“We put all our premium seats on the upper deck and economy on the main deck, but others have mixed them which is inefficient.

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“Our competitors laughed at us when we put showers and a lounge in the A380. But passengers love the showers and they love the lounge.”

Clark said the A380 “is a great aircraft”.

“If airlines don’t believe they can fill an A380 then their business model is wrong. If they can’t fill it there is something wrong with their marketing.”

Emirates has 55 A380s in service with orders for a further 85. However, sales to other airlines have almost dried up.

Airbus is considering an upgrade of the A380 – dubbed the A380neo – with new engines and aerodynamic improvements.

Clark said the new model, if built, would have excellent economics, as good as the Boeing 777X that Boeing will introduce in 2018.

“And we will buy 140 of the A380neos,” said Clark.

“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.”

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18 Comments

  • Michael

    says:

    So other airlines should put themselves at financial risk by ordering more A380s than what they need to help out their largest competitor? If they didn’t laugh at your showers then they are really laughing at you now Tim.

  • Peter Singh

    says:

    What an aircraft! Have flown in it more than a dozen times and would love to see the A380neo.

  • marc

    says:

    Easy when you have buckets of cash and low fuel costs.

  • Chuck

    says:

    Not only does Emirates have the advantages of deep pocketed backers, it also has an enormous geographic advantage. It sits right in the middle of Eastern and Western hemispheres and can act as an intermediate point for traffic in any direction, making its home base the one stop hub for innumerate services. Australia (and Australian carriers) with a low population at the terminating point of long haul routes are at a huge disadvantage. Not even Singapore can compete on even terms with that.

  • Chris Grealy

    says:

    Of course, this is the very same person who is happy to spread conspiracy theories about the disappearance of MH370, which very much calls into question his judgement. With someone like him on board, should Airbus be worried?

  • sander

    says:

    The fact is that the A380 is needed in the near future ! Tim Clarke knows what he is doing….we will see this aircraft become even more popular…

  • Michael

    says:

    I’m tired of this “deep-pocketed” “rich backers” myth constantly being perpetuated about Emirates. You’re confusing Etihad with Emirates.

    The UAE is seven Emirates making up a federation. Each has its own government. Abu Dhabi is the largest and richest. It has 90-95% of the oil.

    Dubai is the second largest and second richest. Their oil effectively ran out 20 years ago. They invested some of the oil windfall, but recent growth has largely been funded by debt (hence the 2008 collapse and the reason they needed a bailout). Emirates has strict dividend targets that it needs to meet as the government relies on these revenues to pay down debt.

    Jet Fuel costs are not low in the Middle East. All refining capacity for Jet A1 is owned by the Western majors and both Emirates and Etihad buy at commercial prices. In fact, Emirates often tanker fuel in from cheaper locations.

    There is some benefit of being owned by a state government (albeit a heavily indebted one). But lots of airlines are state-owned….

  • Great comment Michael…you are spot on…….

  • Phil

    says:

    Its easy when it’s someone elses money….

  • Peter J Cesnik

    says:

    It is true that A380 is a great aircraft and proves that the human race can go technically forward. Still, there are areas where A380 can not go due to the lack of the ground infrastructure. So A380 will become a great shuttle bus between East and West and the rest of the World will still have to use much smaller aircraft to get from say LJU to PAR or ZUR.

  • Kim

    says:

    Would love to see Emirates with a Premium Economy section. Business class far too expensive from OZ to anywhere (even in OZ). Please, Mr Emirates add this section to your long haul flights as some of us don’t have deep pockets.

  • GREAT idea Kim……I think that is the “class” of the future.
    Not only don’t we have deep pockets we don’t have short legs either!!.
    Best Geoffrey Thomas

  • Your airline can just order as long as the airline uses all the weekness of Asian countries, where you attract their traffic. 55, A380’s in your list. Who knows your airline is running in profit or not. Is there any auditing done by an internation consortium. You are saying your airline is running in profit. Supported by heavy state fund and promoting just for the countries name to stand in the tourism world. Over and above your airline revenue is the total revenue from the Civil Aviation, Duty Free shop, Catering and Emirates. You should be aware that even the smallest of all Asian countries do not have this system. Airline earnings is its own and never mix with any other. Do you know that countries like India, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and many in the Far East, if bring a rule that you cannot take passengers onward to Europe or US, where will your Airline stand and what your A380 will do?

  • Ron Lucock

    says:

    The A380 was never intended to operate out of every airport. But put to use in the worlds top 10-20, slot-constrained airports, the capacity increase frees up slots for other aircraft like the B787 to go where the A380 can’t. And if we’re talking about dried-up orders, how many 747-8I’s have Boeing sold in 2014? I doubt any either.

    The 747 almost sent Boeing broke when they first designed & introduced it. Yet it’s out-lived it’s iconic launch customer (Pan Am), out-lived oil shocks, GFC’s, & over 40 years later is still in service. A big plane needs time. I respect Airbus, but any exec that would kill the A380 by 2018 has no balls whatsoever.

  • Ari

    says:

    Never knew what was wrong with the 747 in the 1st place that they had to come out with this A380 thingy.

  • Nigel

    says:

    The A380 is only a great aircraft for certain locations and airlines of the world, which unfortunately for Emirates, there are not many of. Great medium to long haul aircraft however what it gains over other aircraft (B787, B777, A350, A340) it loses heavily in the domain of air traffic management. Compared to competing aircraft types, A380’s require larger wake turbulence separation standards, longer runway occupancy times, larger terminals, wider runways/taxiways. Not only is an airline paying for the A380 aircraft when one is purchased but the costs to the airport upgrading the infrastructure to cope with this aircraft make their way back to the airline and in the end the customer.

    If you do the maths on the larger passenger numbers and fewer aircraft movements due to wake turbulence vs the slightly smaller passenger numbers on competing aircraft types and greater number of airport movements (due to less wake turbulence), the A380 will lose.

    And please do not give a number of 500 pax for the A380. That is an unrealistic figure for an A380 configured for long haul flight (even medium). Most A380’s get up to about 450 maybe 475 max. 500(+) would be an A380 configured for a short, high demand route to reduce the frequency/movements.

  • Martin

    says:

    I would assume most airlines these days would undertake a fairly careful economic analysis when selecting the aircraft they purchase (unlike days of Ansett when it might have been decided by an executive at an airshow!).

    Is Australian Aviation in a position to make a comparative analysis of the economics of various airliners on a representative major route? This would take some reliable figures on relative acquisition and mainenance costs and direct operating costs based on actual aircraft performance etc. This information may not be readily available to anyone other than an airline seeking contractually binding information.

    I was surprised by the comment: “…Clark said the new model, if built, would have excellent economics, as good as the Boeing 777X that Boeing will introduce in 2018”. I would have expected the A380 to have better operating economics than the Boeing 777, whether current versions or future versions by simple virtue of the A380’s economy of scale. This statement by Clark suggests that isn’t quite the case!

    I also wonder about separation times due to wake turbulence mentioned by Nigel. I might have expected those might be roughly proportional to the take-off weight of the aircraft. The take-off weight of the aircraft would in turn probably be reasonably proportional to its pasenger capacity. If so, I can’t see that the operation of A380’s would result in a lower throughput of passengers on any single runway.

  • GAGA

    says:

    Nigel, what are you on about by saying 500 seats is unrealistic for a A380 and most only get up to 450? They average around the 500 mark with around half of those in service over 500 and the other other between 450 and 500. Hardly any are below 450 as you claim. Heck, JAL use to cram well over 500 in some of their 747s.

    Air France – 516-538
    China Southern – 508
    Lufthansa – 526
    Thai – 507
    Emirates – 489 -517

    Perhaps one of the problems with the A380 (or at least the operators) is that not enough seats are being fitted!. Should the economy section should be crammed with seats to offer cheap fares from the economies of scale – just as the Boeing 747 did when it came out? All the airlines along with Airbus boast that the A380 offers significantly more passenger space per seat than other airliners so why didn’t they use this space to fit more seats and lower fares instead? Give people a reason to pick a A380 operator – price – as it seems not many people aren’t picking it for the greater personal space.

    Also is the A380 a bit overweight? Looking at the figures, it appears exceptionally heavy when balanced against the passenger capacity and range. Boeing claims the 747-8 is 10% lighter per seat and this seems perfectly believable. Even the old 747s seem relatively lighter than the A380 and the 787 certainly gives nothing away to the A380 in terms of relative weight.

    Martin makes a great suggestion regarding publishing a example of the operating costs.

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