Airbus’ A380 wins reprieve with life-saving order

THE Airbus flagship A380 superjumbo has won a stay of execution after Emirates last month confirmed the purchase of 36 new aircraft at a cost of US$16 billion — enough to prevent a long-feared shut-down in production.

Just days after Airbus publicly admitted it was making contingencies to shelve the aircraft’s manufacture, its biggest customer committed to firm orders for at least 20 new A380s and options for 16 more.

Though short of the 100-plane deal Airbus was reported to have sought, a memorandum of understanding between the parties ensures the passenger behemoth will remain in production well into the 2020s.

Having become a familiar sight at world airports since its launch by Singapore Airlines on the Sydney route in 2007, the A380 has in recent years struggled to attract new buyers as airlines opt instead for smaller twin-engine, carbon-composite options that offer greater fuel efficiency, including Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.

Speculation about its future intensified at last year’s Dubai Airshow where Emirates announced orders for 40 Boeing 787s — the first time it has opted for Dreamliners — yet failed to reveal any new investment in A380s.

A visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to China in early January brought further speculation, with media reports that he was seeking a deal in which Chinese airlines would take a stake in the superjumbos production business in return for a 100-aircraft order.

Emirates has been the world’s largest A380 customer and currently has 101 of the aircraft in its fleet. Together with existing orders for 41 superjumbos, the carrier’s latest deal will give it 178 A380s with a combined value of more than $US60 billion.

Meanwhile, both Boeing and Airbus have reported record production in the past year as airlines worldwide expand and modernise their fleets in response to surging demand.

Boeing claimed an industry record, driven by strong demand for its 737 and 787 aircraft, and handed over 763 aircraft during 2017.

Airbus was close behind, setting its own new record of 718 planes in 2017, about 30 more than its previous record in 2016.