Airbus executives expect the A380 to make a significant sales breakthrough in the next few years as a result of passenger pressure, and have reiterated that a re-engined variant, called for by largest customer Emirates, is under consideration.
The superjumbo has 324 orders, with 132 delivered, but Airbus believes the aircraft’s consumer appeal will persuade existing customers to buy more. “Every airline CEO says it is their most popular airplane. People are going out of their way to fly in an A380,” says Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy.
Speaking at the Airbus Innovation Days briefing in Toulouse on 11 June, he said an “A380neo” was being looked at. “When your biggest customer asks for something, you study it,” says Leahy.
However, Tom Williams, executive vice president for programmes, is more cautious. “I don’t feel any rush for us to make a decision,” he says. “We still have plenty of A380 campaigns out there. We’d have to be convinced [an A380neo] would be something significantly better.”
Williams also says a larger variant of the double-deck type is still a distant prospect. “If you are going to do a stretch, you would have to look at what the business case would be,” he says. “[Emirates president] Tim Clark might say he would order 50 tomorrow, but you don’t want to be in a position where you are developing an aircraft with just one customer.”
Airbus says it got “a bit carried away” in the way it initially promoted the space potential of the A380 and is now concentrating on “working with airlines to optimise the layout”, admits Williams. Most sales negotiations are now focused on higher-density versions of the aircraft and several airlines are considering increasing the seat count on their existing fleet.
Leahy says Airbus specialists "can easily go in and put 50 more seats into the airplane”.