No rush on A380 re-engine: Airbus

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Airbus says a re-engining of its A380 superjumbo is something it plans to look at in the longer term, but its main priority is to ensure that the development schedules of the A350 and A320neo remain on-track.

Its more immediate focus for the four-engined aircraft, however, is to improve its productivity through the use of higher-density seating configurations, says executive vice-president of programmes Tom Williams in an interview with journalists in Busan.

"A lot of airlines' layouts (on the A380) are probably quite generous and now probably they're thinking about how they can make more productive use of the real estate," he says.

William adds that the airframer has "a lot of options" on how it can reconfigure the cabin for more efficient use, given it has more definition of the aircraft than it did before. There are also possible improvements to its maximum take-off weight that would improve the aircraft's range.

These improvements Airbus could implement towards the end of the decade, when Emirates starts taking delivery of the 50 additional A380s it ordered at the Dubai air show last November, says Williams.

"If you're going to do anything more significant, I don't think it's going to be within the time scale," he adds.

With the Emirates order, Williams says the A380 orderbook is strong and that Airbus is in "no great rush" to make any decisions on the aircraft. This is especially since the manufacturer is "heavily involved" with the planned entry into service of the A350 and the final assembly and first flight of the A320neo.

Emirates' president Tim Clark has been pushing Airbus and its suppliers to make improvements to the A380, while also calling for a re-engine of the jet. It has yet to decide on a powerplant for the 50 A380s it ordered at Dubai, leaving open the possibility of a switch to the Rolls-Royce Trent 900, which is undergoing an upgrade. Its current A380s are powered by Engine Alliance GP7200 engines.