The Airbus A380 Might Find a New Savior: British Airways

Feb 1, 2019

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British Airways “might consider” stepping in and providing a lifeline for the struggling Airbus A380 program, according to Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airline Group, BA’s parent company.

“We might consider some additional aircraft, but only if at an attractive enough price,” Walsh said at a Oneworld press conference in London on Friday. “They’re going to have to be aggressive on the pricing.”

The order would follow another from Emirates Airline, which was hailed as the savior of the world’s biggest passenger plane — but that order is not firm yet. In January 2018, the Middle Eastern carrier — the operator of the world’s largest fleet of A380s — placed a $16 billion order for up to 36 of the aircraft, which would have effectively saved the program from closing for lack of orders.

However, that order is in doubt, and therefore so is the future of the A380 program itself. On Thursday, Reuters reported that Emirates was exploring switching some of its order from the A380 to the smaller A350. Emirates has been struggling to finalize the deal because of differences with engine maker Rolls-Royce. Currently, Emirates operates a fleet comprised entirely of A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft, and has dozens of Boeing 787s on order. Adding A350s would mean yet another aircraft type for an airline that relies on fleet simplification as a profit-driving strategy.

With the uncertainty from Emirates, the A380 program remains in limbo. Without a large order, the A380 assembly lines would be forced to close, and Airbus might well be amenable to negotiations on price, meeting Walsh’s requests for cheap A380s. But negotiations about additional orders from BA have stalled before: in May 2018, British Airways suspended its talks with Airbus to order as many as 10 of the superjumbos.

Walsh said that British Airways has “no concerns” about the A380s already in its fleet. The airline remains fully committed to operating the 12 it currently flies. Walsh noted that it’s an efficient operation and customers love flying the superjumbo. Each of British Airways’ 12 A380s can carry a total of 469 passengers across four cabins — First, Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller.

Featured image courtesy of British Airways.

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