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Fly A380 while you can – big plane’s future again in doubt

February 6, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

It’s no secret that travellers like the big A380, a plane viewed as quiet and spacious – but orders for the giant, four-engined plane have been slow and production was assured only by the patronage of Emirates, world’s biggest A380 operator – which is now reportedly having second thoughts.

A year ago, Emirates, world’s largest international airline, announced a USD 16 billion deal for 36 additional Airbus A380 aircraft, with 20 firm orders and 16 options. The announcement was considered to have saved the A380. Airbus chief operating officer customers, John Leahy, had warned previously that Airbus might have to shut down its A380 program if it failed to sign the deal with Emirates.

A year on, however, Emirates is reportedly looking at other options. It is exploring switching some A380 orders to the smaller A350 or Boeing’s big B777X widebody plane.

The A380 has four engines. The A350 and B777X have two engines. Passengers like the idea of four engines – it leaves you three if one engine fails. But airlines are concerned with fuel and need to remain competitive. New, lightweight carbon-composite planes like the A350 and B787 are growing ever longer in range and correspondingly more attractive to airlines.

According to Bloomberg news service, Airbus is now considering closing its A380 factories sooner than expected. Confidential negotiations between Airbus, Emirates and engine maker Rolls-Royce continue.

Above: How an Emirates A350 would look. The airline doesn’t have any yet

In a statement carried by Reuters, Airbus said it “confirms it is in discussions with Emirates airline in relation to its A380 contract”. Details of negotiations were confidential, it said.

Emirates and Rolls-Royce declined to comment.

Airbus has previously raised the prospect of terminating A380 production. Analysts try to work out whether such talk is a negotiating manoeuvre, essentially a bluff, or a move under serious consideration.

These things are cyclical. Emirates ordered 70 Airbus A350s way back in 2007, only to cancel the order in 2014.

Written by Peter Needham

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