The A380 Will Die If Emirates Doesn’t Order More, Says Airbus Sales Chief

Jan 15, 2018

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The Airbus super jumbo appears to be in real jeopardy. After reports in December that Airbus would stop making the biggest passenger airplane in the world unless it got an order from Emirates, we now have confirmation that the jet might not be manufactured for much longer.

On Monday, outgoing Airbus sales chief John Leahy said that “if we can’t work out a deal with Emirates, there is no choice but to shut down the program.”

Speaking to reporters, Leahy said that the Middle Eastern giant is “the only one with the ability” to purchase enough aircraft to keep the program afloat. Airbus said it needs at least a commitment from a customer for the delivery of six planes a year for at least eight to 10 years.

The Dubai Airshow was a pivotal moment, when negotiations for a large order of A380s broke down between Airbus and Emirates. The airline was expected to place an order for 36 more, a deal valued at $16 billion. Emirates is already the largest owner of the A380, with over 100 in its fleet and dozens more on order. No other airline has a sizable order for the 500-plus seat jet on the books.

Airbus and Emirates are reportedly in negotiations again, although it’s unclear what’s the status of the talks. Leahy, a legendary sales executive who’s sold more than $1 trillion in Airbus planes — and is about to retire — said that he’s “hopeful that we’ll work out a deal.”

The A380 program has been struggling due to a lack of interest by major airlines who are worried about the cost of operating such a large aircraft. Purchasing trends have skewed towards smaller, more fuel efficient models like the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350.

Even though Emirates hasn’t committed to a new order, Emirates CEO Tim Clark told TPG in October that “we need the A380 big time.” Clark wants a guarantee that Airbus will continue manufacturing the super jumbo for the next 10 to 15 years.

Singapore Airlines recently returned to the lessor its first A380, which was actually the first A380 ever delivered to an airline. Still, Singapore has taken delivery of a new A380, with minor design modifications, that’s debuting on international routes.

Airbus is also trying to shop the A380 to more carriers in China — where only China Southern operates a handful — but it remains to be seen if that will help extend the double-decker jet’s life. Although the A380 program is struggling, Airbus did report that it received over 1,100 orders for its other aircraft in 2017.

Featured image by Alberto Riva / TPG. 

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