x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 November 2017

Exclusive: Emirates still in discussions with Airbus on buying 'flying palace', Sheikh Ahmed says

A commitment from the Dubai-based carrier would be a lifeline for the A380 programme

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman & chief executive Emirates is bullish on the travel and aviation industry. Jaime Puebla / The National
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman & chief executive Emirates is bullish on the travel and aviation industry. Jaime Puebla / The National

Emirates, the world’s largest operator of wide-body aircraft, is still in discussions with Airbus to buy additional A380 superjumbos, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of the airline, said.

“I can’t say if we are close or not close, still we are in discussion,” Sheikh Ahmed told The National when asked if the two companies were close to an agreement. “The media reports mentioned the numbers, it's known they’ve said between 20 to 36 [A380s].”

Emirates, which operates 100 A380s and has another 42 on order, has been pressing Airbus to commit to the future of the double-decker aircraft. A commitment from the Dubai-based carrier would relieve pressure on Airbus, which has not sold the aircraft dubbed the flying palace in more than two years. It would also be a fitting climax to the legacy of Airbus’ top salesman John Leahy who has helped the Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer reap $1.7 trillion in orders.

An order of 20 jets would be valued at US$8.7 billion while an order for 36 of the aircraft would be worth $15.7bn at list prices before discount.

“We are always optimistic, we are always positive, it’s a growing industry,” Sheikh Ahmed said when asked about his take on the travel industry and aviation market.

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Emirates ordered 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners at the start of the Dubai Airshow this week valued at $15.1bn based on list prices before discount. The carrier's decision to go with the 787 was a blow to Airbus which was touting its wide-body A350. Emirates had previously ordered the A350 but rolled back on its commitment following a review of its fleet requirements and in 2014 cancelled its order for 70 A350s – valued at $16bn.

As of September 30, Emirates’ global network spanned 156 destinations in 84 countries while its fleet stood at 264 aircraft including freighters.

Last week, Emirates reported a 111 per cent surge in its half year net profit which reached Dh1.7bn, on the back of serving more passengers, efficiencies and a fluctuating US dollar.