Airbus confirms Emirates considering change in A380 order

written by australianaviation.com.au | February 1, 2019
Emirates Airbus A380 A6-EUG touching down at Christchurch Airport. (Emirates)
Emirates Airbus A380 A6-EUG touching down at Christchurch Airport. (Emirates)

Airbus has confirmed media reports it is in talks with Emirates regarding the airline’s existing orders for A380 aircraft.

The aerospace company issued a statement on Thursday evening (European time) regarding the matter after Reuters reported Emirates was considering changing its recent order for 36 A380s to the Airbus’s A350.

“Airbus SE confirms it is in discussions with Emirates Airline in relation to its A380 contract,” the Airbus statement said.

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“The details of Airbus’ commercial discussions with customers remain confidential.”

In January 2018, Emirates signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Airbus to purchase an additional 36 A380s. The MoU comprised orders for 20 aircraft and an option for 16 more of the type.

At the time, Airbus said the Emirates MoU would ensure the A380 would remain in production for the next two decades.

Emirates chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and then Airbus Commercial Aircraft chief operating officer for customers John Leahy sign the MoU. (Airbus/Emirates)
Emirates chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and then Airbus Commercial Aircraft chief operating officer for customers John Leahy sign the MoU. (Airbus/Emirates)

However, concerns began to emerge in the months following the signing of the MoU as negotiations between Emirates and engine maker Rolls-Royce over the supply of engines for those A380s dragged on.

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The Reuters report said Airbus was open to offering its A350 family of aircraft to Emirates while trying to find other airlines willing to take A380s.

“Airbus is trying to broker a complex workaround which could see Emirates take smaller jets also powered by Rolls-Royce while it tries to secure homes for as many A380s as possible,” the report said.

Will there be an Airbus a350 built in Emirates’ livery? (Airbus)

Emirates A380 order regarded as a key to ensuring the program remains in production

The Emirates MoU broke a 21-month period without any A380 orders.

At December 31 2018, there were 321 total orders for the A380, with 234 aircraft delivered and 87 aircraft in the backlog, according to the Airbus website.

Emirates is the largest of the A380’s 14 operators by some margin, with 109 in the fleet and a further 53 on order at December 31, according to the Airbus orders and deliveries figures.

The next largest operator is Singapore Airlines (SIA), which has 19 A380s, followed by Lufthansa with 14. British Airways and Qantas are next with 12 each.

The A380, which is world’s largest passenger aircraft, has struggled for sales in recent time, with carriers preferring twin-engine variants to serve their long-haul routes.

In response to the weakness in the very large passenger aircraft market, Airbus has slowed the production rate of the A380 from 15 aircraft delivered in 2017 to 12 aircraft in 2018. The company has said previously it expected to deliver eight A380s in 2019.

Airbus has also sought to make the A380 more efficient and improve the aircraft’s operating economics through features such as new fuel saving winglets.

Packaged together and called A380plus, the initiatives included extending maintenance intervals, aerodynamic changes to the wing and previously announced “cabin enablers” to add more seats.

A mockup of the new Airbus A380 winglets on board at test aircraft at the 2017 Paris Airshow. (Airbus)
A mockup of the new Airbus A380 winglets on board at test aircraft at the 2017 Paris Airshow. (Airbus)
An artist's impression of the Airbus A380plus. (Airbus)
An artist’s impression of the Airbus A380plus. (Airbus)

Emirates had previously been an A350 customer, having ordered 50 A350-900s and 20 A350-1000s in 2007.

However, it cancelled the order in 2014 following the airline’s fleet review and delays to the A350 program.

Airbus had been hoping to win Emirates back to the A350 as the airline restarted negotiations with both Airbus and Boeing for its future widebody needs.

Instead, it was Boeing that secured an order for 40 787-10s that was announced at the 2017 Dubai Airshow. The aircraft were due to be delivered from 2022.

An artist's impression of the Boeing 787-10 in Emirates livery. (Emirates)
An artist’s impression of the Boeing 787-10 in Emirates livery. (Emirates)

7 Comments

  • Paule

    says:

    As sad as this is, it seems the days of this fabulous aircraft’s maufacture are numbered. If you can get better economics out of a twin jet, then any airline would be foolish to continue to purchase this four engined giant – as much as passengers love it! That said, the A350 is extraordinarily comfortable and passenger friendly. Not a bad consolation for customers.

  • Stu Bee

    says:

    This is an interesting development for the A380…. could this mark the end of production?

  • David

    says:

    The A380 is too big & too expensive to operate in a market eith massive declines in discretionary spending

  • Geoff

    says:

    Interesting development in the ever dynamic aviation industry. Some points to mull on:

    First of all, the January 2018 signing between Airbus and Emirates was an MoU only. No guarantees there. Well done to John Leahy pre his retirement.

    Secondly, Emirates have now seen how magnificent the A350XWB is and are very interested. It has so much pax appeal and many more will sell. Over 900 thus far. Rolls Royce has done a stunning job with the XWB version of the Trent.

    Thirdly, the Trent 900 (A380) was a bit short on the sfc and has caused some concern for Emirates as a result. The contract between RR and EK has been in dispute for some time. This will be resolved but consequences always follow. I think commercial pressure on RR has been too high with too many variations of Trent engines to cope with. Hence Trent 1000 (787) issues. In other words, less resources due to cost cutting.

    Fourthly, there could be a positive outcome as Airbus needs to lower the price of the wonderful A380 and British Airways will be a quick respondent with an order. Willy Walsh has said as much. Lufthansa and China Southern will need more as the air traffic doubles in the next ten years provided there is not a major recession. Cathay also have not ruled out the idea as HKIA is so congested.

    In summary, the variables are there to shuffle and so the programme can survive with some intelligent input by the parties concerned.

  • Dave K

    says:

    The A380 is too costly to run wrt A350, A330neo, B787 and B777Max. If a major redesign could be undertaken such as TWO engines (although need to be d3signed etc); then the A380 may have a longer production life

  • The A380s production days are definitely numbered, they are so few, so very very few, airlines around that can or able to operate this huge aeroplane successfully. The A350 is the way to go, and I have been lucky in having flown on both.
    HI FLY who operate an ex SQ A380 have been unable to attract many charters with it, I think that says a lot.

  • Geoff

    says:

    Yes Mervyn, I also have flown both and they are magnificent aircraft. The A380 is simply more spacious and more loved by pax. Certainly, the A350XWB order book will comprise well over 1000 by the end of 2019.

    As I have said before, the sweet spot for the A380 is the -900 at 6m longer which would be the datum model for reasonable seat mile costs and would be here now but for a political world where the variables have slowed the growth in air travel.

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