Airbus will trim the production rate of its flagship A380 to one aircraft a month from 2018.
The airframe confirmed the rate reduction at the Farnborough Air Show on Tuesday (European time). In 2015, Airbus delivered 27 A380s to its airline customers.
Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier said the manufacturer remained committed to the aircraft, citing its popularity among the travelling public.
“We are establishing a new target for our industrial planning, meeting current commercial demand but keeping all our options open to benefit from future A380 markets,” Bregier said in a statement.
“We are maintaining, innovating and investing in the A380, keeping the aircraft the favourite of passengers, the airlines and airports – today and in the future. The A380 is here to stay.”
Sales of the world’s biggest passenger aircraft have been slow, with carriers preferring twin-engine variants to serve their long-haul routes.
Currently, there were 193 A380s in service. The program has garnered 319 total orders since it launched, leaving the backlog at 126 aircraft. However, there was some uncertainty around whether some of those orders, such as eight for Qantas and six for Virgin Atlantic, would ever be delivered.
Airbus has attempted to improve the breakeven rate of the A380, including installing a fourth final assembly line for its A320 Family into a building at its Hamburg-Finkenwerder facility that was originally slated for A380 production. It is projecting for a breakeven rate of 20 A380s next year.
It has also tried to boost sales – the list price of the A380 is about US$400 million, although airlines tend to receive discounts – through improvements to the efficiency of the cabin (i.e. adding more seats) and boosting the operational reliability of the aircraft through longer periods between maintenance checks.
And Airbus chief operating officer Tom Williams said recently low fuel prices could also encourage airlines to order the aircraft.
“The fuel price, as it is today, helps us in presenting the risk and reward ratio of the A380. That is one of the other things that we are going to push really hard,” Williams told reporters at the Airbus Innovation Days media briefings at the end of May.
“This is an aircraft that will still come back.”
(Read more about the A380 in the July edition of Australian Aviation magazine, on sale now.)
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