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Photo: Emirates

A380 under threat again

Emirates considers switching its orders for the world’s biggest passenger aircraft to smaller planes.

Emirates is considering changing some of its orders for the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, to the smaller A350, throwing the future of the superjumbo once again into doubt, insiders tell the news agency Reuters.

The Gulf carrier has paid tens of billions of dollars for more than a hundred A380s but it has been struggling to finalise a ‘lifeline order’ to buy another 36 of them – a deal that would ensure assembly lines stay open.

Worth $16 billion at list prices a year ago, such a deal would keep 3,000 employees in work and secure the A380’s future for another decade.

The difficulties with the order are because of differences with the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce over shortfalls in fuel savings, the unnamed sources say.

The protracted negotiations mean that Airbus is now looking “extremely seriously” at closing A380 production sooner than planned.

Tom Enders, the European plane maker’s chief executive, is due to leave his job in April and does not want to leave the situation unresolved, the insiders explain.

Emirates and Rolls-Royce declined to comment on the story, but Airbus said in a statement that it “confirms it is in discussions with Emirates airline in relation to its A380 contract”, the details of which are confidential.

Luxury lifestyle
Emirates has used A380s over the years to link its brand with a luxury lifestyle. It argues that the planes, some of which have over 600 seats, have helped it at slot-constrained airports.

But sales of large four-engine aircraft are falling these days as airlines turn to smaller and less fuel-thirsty twin-engine jets like the A350 and Boeing 777, which boast ever-improving range and size.

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