AA11: Airbus predicts "mega cities" will drive A380 growth

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Asian mega-cities offering to/from RPKs in excess of 5 billion annually will drive demand for Airbus A380 aircraft, with Airbus predicting the number of such cities growing from 9 now to 17 by 2029.

According to Airbus, Chinese cities with RPKs of over 5 billion will double to six by 2029, while India will have two such cities - Delhi and Mumbai. Asia will also see a marked rise of cities offering to/from RPKs between 1-5 billion, as well as cities offering to/from RPKs between 250-1000 million.

Airbus senior vice president product strategy and market forecast Chris Emerson made the mega cities prediction at a media briefing at Asian Aerospace 2011. He noted that there are 43 A380s in service today, serving 28 routes and 20 destinations.

Although carriers have generally ordered the A380 for long, intercontinental routes and not for domestic services, Emerson says that carriers are still operating the A380 as a "flagship" aircraft. Over time he expects the aircraft to be increasingly used for short-haul, high density routes such as those in China.

Though Airbus views China as a key market for the A380, only one Chinese carrier has ordered the aircraft, China Southern Airlines, which has five on order.

The carrier's first A380 had its maiden flight on 3 March to Hamburg from Toulouse, after completing final assembly and system tests. In Hamburg the aircraft will be painted and its cabin will be installed. Airbus declines to provide a firm delivery date, saying only that it will be delivered in the second half of 2011.