Aerospace & Defense

Has Airbus Agreed to Upgrade the A380 for a Single Customer?

Middle Eastern airline Emirates has been pushing Airbus to commit to upgrading the aircraft maker’s superjumbo A380 double-decker passenger jet. The airline took delivery of its 100th A380 Friday morning and has another 42 on order. Future orders, however, may depend on a commitment from Airbus to improve the plane.

Airbus has been reluctant to commit to putting new, more fuel-efficient engines on the plane for at least three years. At this morning’s delivery ceremony, however, Airbus CEO Tom Enders said that he expects the A380 to be in production for at least another 10 years and that the company plans to make several improvements to the plane over time.

According to Leeham News, in response to a direct question about putting new engines on the A380, Enders replied “probably. At some point, this will make sense.”

The aircraft maker’s chief rival, Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) disagrees and has said it will stop taking orders for new passenger versions of its 747 jumbo jet. Boeing is considering adding a 777-10 to its new 777X family to seat up to 450 passengers, compared to the 500 or so in a typical configuration of the A380, which can accommodate a maximum of 850 seats in a single-class configuration.

Airbus revealed an upgraded A380plus in June that added 80 more seats and projected a 13% improvement in economics. These new planes are likely to be the ones that Enders was talking about this morning.

An order for between 20 and 50 new A380s is likely to come (if it comes at all) at next week’s Dubai Air Show. Emirates chairman and CEO, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, noted that he hoped the announcement would be ready in time for the show.

Airbus announced a cut in production of the A380 from 12 per year to eight per year beginning in 2019. The company had previously announced a cut from 15 this year to 12 in 2018.

Last December, Emirates delayed delivery of six A380s scheduled for this year and six scheduled for next year. Iran Air had earlier cancelled an order for 12 of the planes.