Emirates Airline president Tim Clark still sees advantages in operating the Airbus A380 over newer-generation long-haul twinjets like the A350 and Boeing 787.
During an 11 April media briefing at Hamburg airport – while the Aircraft Interiors Expo was being held elsewhere in the city – Clark said the A380 was "vital" to Emirates and represented "still the best unique selling point that anybody has got".
Clark suggests that interior suppliers have raised their product standards and that other airlines have upgraded their aircraft in response to passenger amenities that Emirates introduced on its A380s in 2008.
He says a cabin-standard "equalisation" is taking place with long-haul twinjets, and that some carriers "go a bit further".
But he adds: "They don't have the A380. And the A380 gives us enormous capability that a normal twin doesn't [provide]."
The double-deck aircraft's cabin allows carriers to provide a generous product "because you have so much more space", especially in economy class – which Clark describes as "exceptional" on Emirates.
"You get ultra-long visions with small aeroplanes like the 787-9 and the A350-900LR, whatever. [But] you are still in a twin," he says.
He notes that Emirates' A380 operation faces "pricing pressures and competitive pressures", but insists the type "really works for us, and it produces good money for us".
Clark adds: "It always baffles me that we can make them work profitably [when] others can't seem to."
Earlier this year, Emirates placed an order for 20 A380s which are scheduled to be delivered from 2020.
It also took 16 options, which will be exercised "sooner rather than later", says Clark. The options would extend deliveries by two years until 2029, Airbus has said.
No engines have yet been selected for the latest order. After building up a fleet of Engine Alliance GP7200-powered A380s, Emirates has switched to Rolls-Royce's Trent 900 for aircraft delivered since 2015. The engine selection is an "open contest at the moment".
Clark says: "We were surprised that [Engine] Alliance were ready to come back into the frame, having basically shut down everything. We thought that we would obviously have to go to Rolls-Royce. There is nothing wrong with Rolls-Royce. But having Alliance coming back in again could make life interesting.
Emirates could operate its A380s until the end of their service life, says Clark, despite the airline's previous record of phasing out aircraft at an earlier stage and uncertainties around the programme's long-term prospects.
The airline's first A380 – registration A6-EDA, delivered in 2008 – is set to be retired between 2021 and 2023, says Clark. But he adds: "Obviously, a lot of it is conditioned on the peculiarity of the A380."