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Emirates pushes Airbus to integrate A350 technology on A340-600

By Murdo Morrison in Dubai

Dubai carrier wants airframer to migrate technology from A350 to improve -600 or face losing its deferred order

Airbus is being warned that it must take steps to adapt technologies developed for the A350 to dramatically improve the A340-600 if it is not to lose Emirates’ deferred order for up to 18 aircraft.

Although the airline has delayed the A340s, deliveries of which were due to start next year, Tim Clark, president of the Dubai-based airline, insists the commitment stands. “The door is open to Airbus to do something. If we believe there are signs of progress, we will wait,” he says.

Emirates A340-600 W445
© Airbus / i3M

An Airbus computer-generated impression of a standard Emirates A340-600, which may never reach the skies if the UAE carrier cancels its order in favour of an as-yet undefined enhanced model

“The reality is Seattle’s doing better in this market [with the 777-300ER], but we think the A340-600 could be improved,” he adds.

Airbus is studying an “A340-600 Enhanced” model that would incorporate some A350 technology and Clark says that the manufacturer should maximise this effort. “They need a better cabin and to make sure A350 technologies are migrated into the A340,” he says.

Clark also says Airbus faces “huge hurdles” to meet its April 2007 target to deliver the first Engine Alliance GP7200-powered A380, of which Emirates is launch operator. “I don’t believe for a moment it won’t be tough,” he says. “So far, it’s so good, but cabin integration is an enormous challenge. If it is looking to go beyond that time we have asked them to be as candid as possible with us. But nothing would surprise us.”

The airline’s chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said at Emirates Group’s annual results announcement in Dubai last week that senior managers had visited Toulouse in April and “they confirmed that we will receive our A380 in mid-April”. Publicly Airbus will only commit to a “second quarter” delivery for the first Emirates aircraft.

Emirates is in the midst of an A350/787 evaluation with a view to completing a deal for up to 100 aircraft, and Clark has urged Airbus not to be rushed into freezing the specifications on the A350 in a bid to cut the 787’s head start.

“The airline community has made it clear to Airbus that the 787 is the better aircraft and therefore it should not be down to us to tell them the risks of continuing with an airliner that is not the best. With fuel prices as they are, we need these guys to push their research and development as far as possible. If they do that, you will find people will wait.”

Emirates Group made record profits last year, but fuel costs stalled airline profit growth, despite revenues up by over a quarter. Group net profit for the year to 31 March was $762 million on sales of $6.3 billion, up from $4.9 billion. But profits at the airline division rose just over 2% to $674 million. In recent years, the airline has enjoyed double figure profit increases.

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