Updated with additional comments from Eric Chen about the market opportunity in China pertaining to airport hubs.
Airbus remains optimistic about selling A380s in China over the next five to seven years on the back of growing passenger demand.
Speaking at a Beijing media briefing, Airbus China president Eric Chen says the number of A380s could grow to between 60 and 100 during that period.
During the presentation, he pointed out that out of the 1480 Airbus aircraft that are in Chinese passenger service as of August 2017, only five are A380s. In addition, China's RPKs grew nearly 15% year-on-year in the first half of 2017.
Chen adds discussions are underway with Chinese carriers who have expressed interest in acquiring the widebody, although it remains unclear if these include state-owned airlines such as Air China and China Eastern Airlines, or the privately-owned Hainan Airlines.
FlightGlobal's Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that China Southern Airlines is the only Chinese operator of the A380.
"The A380 is a powerful tool for hub-to-hub operations," says Chen. "China is building up its own hubs, thanks to its geographical position. From China to North America, and to Europe, if you look at the map, China a very ideal location to build a hub or offer one stopover. China is a fast-growing long-haul market and has a large population with growing disposable incomes."
Chen says that Airbus has presented the A380plus concept to local carriers, but indicates that Airbus's focus is more about creating awareness and stoking interest in the double decker type.
The A380plus – which would enter service around 2020 if formally launched – is a development study which will include installation of winglets on the aircraft. This, and other modifications, would help reduce fuel burn.
"The A330neo, the A350, and the A380 cover different market segments," adds Chen. "In each given route, the size of the airplanes should be tailored to match the market requirement."