Airbus defends A380 long-term prospects as converted freighter

Washington DC
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Airbus is reacting to concerns that appraisers are setting A380 residual values too low by re-emphasising the ultra-large airliner's long-term viability in secondary markets.

Derek Davies, investor marketing director at Airbus, believes some appraisers wrongly doubt that the A380 passenger aircraft can be successfully switched to the freighter role in the longer term through after-market conversions - threatening residual value estimates.

The emergence of a secondhand market will be critical for estimates of A380 residual value to improve, as appraisers look for long-term market viability.

But Davies, who addressed the Commercial Aviation US Valuation Conference, complains that the appraisers' concerns about the A380's residual values are based on the false assumption that the A380 will not be a force in the market for converted freighters after 20 years. He says Airbus designers intentionally designed the passenger A380 with freighter conversions in mind.

"The freighter capability [of the A380] is still there," Davies told delegates in Washington DC. "We have the availability of [passenger-to-freighter] because it was part of the initial design of the aircraft."

Davies had sought to get clearance to release more detail about the freighter conversion model in time for the event, but corporate approvals did not come fast enough.

When FedEx Express was customer for the new-build A380F, it said it expected it would be interested in buying ex-airline A380s for conversion to freighters.

However, some observers believe that with the resurrection of the new-build A380F programme far from certain, it is difficult to forecast whether a market for freighter conversions will materialise as the former could be vital to proving that the concept of an all-cargo A380 works.