Airbus chief commercial officer Eric Schulz has welcomed wet-lease operator Hi Fly's decision to acquire a used A380 as a breakthrough in a sector he prioritised for the double-deck type after taking up his position earlier this year.
Portuguese-based Hi Fly will become the fourth European operator of the A380 behind Air France, Lufthansa and British Airways, but the first to take second-hand aircraft.
"These are people that I visited very early on when I started in Airbus, because I believe that, on the A380 used market, these people could be quite interesting," Schulz tells FlightGlobal, noting that wet-leases offer a solution "where seasonality could be a problem".
He adds: "I believe that these guys, who are very smart people, have understood what they could do with the product.
"Now, will Hi Fly be the only solution? I don't think so, but they are certainly a good customer. They are a customer who is stepping up, and they have identified what they can do with the product."
Schulz predicts that the Portuguese carrier "will be proven right with what they can do with the aeroplane".
Emirates' 20-unit A380 top-up deal meanwhile represents the only firm widebody order that Airbus has secured so far this year, after narrowbodies last year accounted for all bar 55 of its 1,109 net orders.
However, Schulz declares himself "very optimistic about our widebody position", adding: "We have a lot of order deals pending that I cannot speak about because we have not yet reached conclusion – or we have reached conclusion and are not in a situation to officialise this – but I feel very good.
"I just came back from a trip to Asia and I have seen a lot of customers really interested about the widebody products."
In the US market, there have recently been high-profile setbacks: Airbus lost business when both American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines chose to order Boeing 787s.
Schulz notes that American was "already very heavily engaged" with the 787, adding: "I knew exactly where our competitors had to go in terms of pricing. I'm certain American did a good deal."
In reference to Hawaiian's switch of an A330-800 order to the 787-9, he admits: "Maybe we did not see the danger coming…we may have made the conclusion a bit too early that the best solution was to stick with us – which I think it was."
Yet he remains philosophical. "I have the ambition for Airbus that we will be absolutely a top-tier organisation, and learning out of our failures is as important as celebrating our wins."
Schulz was speaking on 10 April after Airbus confirmed a firm order from SAS Group for 35 more Airbus A320neo narrowbodies. The Scandinavian group, which already has 17 A320neos in service, intends to modernise and simplify its fleet as it phases out Boeing 737s.
"Any logical airline would try to rationalise and align their business so that their maintenance cost reduces, their flightcrew training reduces, and they have more versatility to change and move aeroplanes from one route to another," says Schulz.
"Getting to a consistent fleet cannot just always work against Airbus. Sometimes it works in our favour."