Viewpoint

Does the A380 add up at 10?

It was 10 years ago yesterday (April 27) that the Airbus’ behemoth took its first flight, and while the PR machine in Toulouse is adamant that “the numbers add up” and that the programme will be “cash positive” this year, question marks remain over the programme. Talking Point for one has made no bones in the past about questioning whether the A380 should be deemed a commercial success, and with an orderbook which seems to be shrinking rather than growing it’s obvious why we have our doubts. In July last year, when Airbus made the decision to cancel Skymark’s order for six of the jumbos, the orderbook stood at 318. Nine months later and in the press releases celebrating the A380’s 10th anniversary yesterday it was quoted as 317.

Talking Point for one has made no bones in the past about questioning whether the A380 should be deemed a commercial success, and with an orderbook which seems to be shrinking rather than growing it’s obvious why we have our doubts.

In July last year, when Airbus made the decision to cancel Skymark’s order for six of the jumbos, the orderbook stood at 318. Nine months later and in the press releases celebrating the A380’s 10th anniversary yesterday it was quoted as 317.

Furthermore, it’s been more than a year since Airbus announced any new firm orders for the aircraft, during which time the calls from Emirates for a re-engined option have become louder and louder.

Last month, the carrier’s president Tim Clark told reporters that Airbus was “compiling the business case” for introducing a new, more efficient engine for the aircraft after discussions with Emirates.

Clark claimed that a new engine could provide up to a 13 per cent reduction in seat costs per mile and that Emirates would consider ordering up to 200 of the aircraft if Airbus was to make it.

With the orderbook stagnant at less than 320 aircraft – 140 of which are with Emirates and of those 80 are yet to be delivered – it seems that Airbus cannot afford not to do the neo.

In the celebratory PR released for the anniversary, Airbus said the A380 was “more than ever…matching the evolving trends in air traffic”, with new premium economy and 11-abreast economy configurations helping to boost passenger yields for its operators.

Frank Vermeire, head of A380 marketing at Airbus, said that new cabin innovations would allow “even more optimisation of the cabin space” allowing the inclusion of additional business and premium economy seats.

“The new higher seat count configuration, together with the increase in yield, will generate up to $20m each year in additional revenues per A380,” Vermeire claimed.

However, with some operators struggling to fill the A380 as it is and Clark’s predictions for fuel economy, it seems that it is new engines not new seats which will win the programme more orders.

Last year Airbus announced the A330neo at Farnborough, could it be that in a couple of months it does the same for the A380 in Paris?

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