Middle Eastern carrier Emirates could unveil a follow-on agreement for 35-40 Airbus A380s as early as today, after the operator conducted last-minute negotiations for an opening-day deal.
Emirates would be more likely to stay – at least for now – with the current A380 rather than the modified A380plus, for fleet simplicity, although it could take advantage of certain enhancements associated with the A380plus.
The carrier has both engine options on its A380s and, although it is currently receiving a run of Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered jets, it could still choose to revert to the Engine Alliance GP7200 fitted to most of its A380 fleet.
Deliveries of additional aircraft would need to take into account capacity development at Emirates' Dubai hub.
Emirates has already placed orders for 142 of the double-deck aircraft but has been considering a follow-on deal. A source familiar with the negotiations points out, however, that the Dubai show is not a cut-off deadline for an agreement.
Airbus has not commented on the situation, beyond stating that it would naturally welcome a continued endorsement of the A380. It unveiled the A380plus earlier this year, with a hiked 578t maximum take-off weight and modifications to take up to 80 more seats.
Emirates had pressed for a re-engined A380 but the A380plus stopped short of such a measure.
With its 100th A380 parked on the display stand, Emirates is likely to dominate the opening day, as it unveils a new first-class cabin for its Boeing 777-300ER fleet. The cabin will debut on the Geneva and Brussels routes.
Emirates had already released a teaser video of the revamped cabin, configured in a 1-1-1 layout rather than the previous 1-2-1, hinting at the upholstery, lighting, environmental controls and technological accessories.
Panasonic Avionics in particular has contributed to the refreshed look with a lightweight modern in-flight entertainment and connectivity system which carries Emirates' signature 'ICE' entertainment platform.
Emirates' first-class cabin will include a tablet mode controller, providing a 13in (33cm) second touchscreen for ICE as well as the seat and environmental control.
Passengers can communicate directly with flight attendants using a video chat capability, or request privacy with a 'do not disturb' setting. A wireless handset control offers ICE navigation, and the upgrade includes a single-touch button to activate "sleep" mode.