Middle Eastern carrier Emirates sealed a landmark agreement with Airbus for another 32 A380s less than 24h before unveiling the eye-popping order.
Its firm agreement, disclosed yesterday, is the single-biggest order secured by Airbus for the A380 and will take the Emirates fleet to 90 of the type.
"It's not a collection item. It's too big to have in one place," joked Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, insisting that the airline would be able to find room to deploy all of the aircraft.
Giving the value of the order as $11.5 billion, at list prices, he added: "Our latest commitment signals Emirates' confidence in the growth to come in a thriving aviation sector."
© H. Gousse/Airbus
The deal means 17 customers have, between them, ordered 234 A380s. Airbus chief Tom Enders said the final agreement had been reached "less than 24 hours" before it was formally unveiled.
All of the aircraft are scheduled to arrive by 2017, and the airline confirms that none of them is intended as a replacement for its early A380 airframes. Emirates took its first A380 in 2008 and says it would not retire these early airframes before 2020.
Emirates' A380 fleet currently comprises 10 aircraft, the latest of which has been on display at the show. The carrier already had another 48 to come from previous orders.
The Dubai-based carrier's president, Tim Clark, says that the airline will stay with Engine Alliance's GP7200 to power the additional 32 jets.
Clark also reaffirmed Emirates' interest in the proposed A380-900 stretch, an interest which pre-dates the carrier's initial order for the A380.
Although Enders said recently that the -900 variant was a "back-burner" project, the Emirates order, and Clark's interest, prompted him to offer an optimistic prognosis for the project.
"I am quite sure we will, one day, build the -900," he said. But he reiterated that attempting to develop the aircraft, while Airbus was still addressing production issues with the current A380 model and dealing with the crucial A350 programme, would "not be responsible at this juncture".