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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Airbus confident A380 production will continue beyond 2018

In the past, some airlines have walked away from the A380 because it is difficult to fill and expensive to operate.
An Etihad Airbus A380 at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Ravindranath K / The National
An Etihad Airbus A380 at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Ravindranath K / The National

MIAMI // Airbus is confident that production of the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the A380, will continue beyond 2018 despite a lack of new customers.

“Having a target of 20 to 30 A380s a year is not a dream,” Fabrice Brégier, the president and chief executive of Airbus, told The National at the International Air Travel Association annual general meeting.

“We are lucky enough to have still around 150 aircraft in our backlog, or a little bit less. We have a good order book for 2015, 2016, and 2017. It gives us time to promote the A380 to other potential customers.”

His comments come even though Airbus failed to win a single order for the aircraft in the past two years.

Nevertheless, the A380 has served Arabian Gulf carriers very well, as their airport hubs receive sufficient passenger traffic to fill the double-decker aircraft.

Emirates has built its growth strategy around the A380. It operates 60 of the superjumbos and has 80 on order.

But some airlines have walked away from the A380 because it is difficult to fill and expensive to operate. No A380 has been bought by an airline in North America.

The United Airlines chief financial officer John Rainey was this week quoted by the industry site Flightglobal as saying that the A380 “doesn’t work” for its network.

Temel Kotil, the chief executive of Turkish Airlines, said that his growth strategy does not include A380s because he prefers to add frequencies to popular destinations using smaller aircraft.

The European plane maker also faces another possible threat of used A380s coming on to the market, some of which have been in use for about three years. Thai Airways and Japan’s bankrupt carrier Skymark are both said to be looking to sell their A380s.

Mr Brégier said that the A380 also works well for “airlines that operate to big hubs that have slot constraints”.

He added that Airbus would break even this year by delivering 30 of the superjumbos to customers, despite a late delivery to the Russian carrier Transaero Airlines.

“I’m sure we will meet the target to deliver the A380s to Transaero. The problem is that they are facing a difficult economic situation because of the rouble’s devaluation and a shrinking market for tourism from Russia,” said Mr Brégier.

“We spoke with them and the best solution was to postpone the first deliveries. We had to deliver the first aircraft by the end of this year. It would not be reasonable for them to do it now.”

selgazzar@thenational.ae

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