Airbus is confidently predicting that British Airways will ultimately boost its A380 orders to up to 30 aircraft, as it forecasts that the airline’s London Heathrow base will be the world’s number one A380 hub with 90 flights a day within 12 years.

BA selected the A380 last year to replace a small portion of its fleet of 57 Boeing 747-400s, placing orders for 12 firm and seven options for delivery from 2012. However Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy says that he expects the airline’s fleet could grow considerably larger: “We see BA having between 20 and 30 A380s eventually.”




In its latest 20-year market forecast the airframer has promoted Heathrow ahead of Hong Kong as its number one A380 hub by 2026. “We forecast that by 2020, 90 daily flights at Heathrow will be operated by A380-type aircraft,” says Airbus vice-president market research and forecast Laurent Rouaud.

He says the methodology behind this number does not look specifically at capacity constraint issues such as the likelihood of a third runway being built, but rather the theoretical frequency growth capability of each Heathrow city-pair.

Meanwhile, Leahy is feeling confident about Airbus’s chances in phase two of the BA campaign to replace the bulk of its 747-400 fleet, where the A350 XWB is up against the proposed 787-10 and “777X” design study. The airline’s chief executive Willie Walsh has said that he aims to reach a decision on this deal before the end of the year.

The 787-10 is “too small” so Boeing “is looking at what it can do with the 777 as the -300ER is not competitive with the A350-1000,” says Leahy.

“We feel we have the right aircraft with the A350 and BA is leaning in that direction,” he adds. Leahy does not expect Boeing to be ready to finalise its 777 development plans this year “unless it pulls a rabbit out of a hat”.