Good News and Bad for Airbus

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Thanksgiving is not a European holiday, but for Airbus Group SE it might feel like it this year. The company’s largest twin-engine, dual-aisle passenger jet, the A350-1000, made its first flight this morning. That ratchets up the pressure on the company’s four-engine, dual aisle superjumbo A380 either to add new engines or fade away as has The Boeing Co.’s (NYSE: BA) 747.

The A350-100 is designed to carry 336 passengers in a three-class configuration while the A380’s double-deck design can accommodate up to 525 in the same configuration. Boeing’s largest 777 can transport up to 364 passengers.

Demand for the A380 comes from just one Airbus customer, Dubai-based Emirates, which has promised to order 200 of the planes if Airbus puts new engines on the current model.

Airbus has delayed a decision on new engines for the A380 as the company, like Boeing, faces a lack of new orders. A report this morning at Defense News claims Airbus is preparing to lay off between 780 and 1,000 staff in its high technology and communications division in an effort to bring costs down.

The European aircraft maker announced a restructuring in September, but so far the impact has been just a reshuffling of the organizational structure. Thursday’s report of lay offs is the first concrete instance of cost savings.

The so-far unconfirmed job cuts will hit the technology innovation area hardest. The group is believed to be losing about 400 jobs. The company’s communications group could lose nearly 100 of its current 380 staff and some 75 of 243 international strategy and public affairs jobs are also on the block as are 120 jobs in the cyber and computer security department. The legal and compliance office, with 370 current employees, also figures to lose 75 positions.

Airbus did confirm that it is meeting with its work councils and that those meetings will continue for the “next few days.” A decision is expected to be announced by the end of the year.