Emirates’ announcement that it is switching from Engine Alliance to Rolls-Royce as propulsion supplier for its latest batch of A380s involves no new aircraft commitment, and is the UK firm’s biggest ever deal – yet Airbus may emerge as the biggest winner.
By conceding that it is prepared to take all 50 superjumbos with the existing Trent 900 engine, the Dubai carrier appears to have given up on its dream of debuting a repowered – and possibly remodelled – A380 sometime around the turn of the decade.
While chief executive Tim Clark says he is more than happy with the performance of his current A380s, the airline believed a refreshed aircraft would offer a step-change in efficiency, and Emirates would probably have been prepared to build its future fleet around an A380neo.
Airbus has appeared less keen on the idea. Although Toulouse has not yet fully shut the door on an A380 development, a commitment from its biggest customer for the type alone is probably not enough to persuade it to invest the funds and energy necessary to launch a new variant of a slow-selling type.
Now that an A380neo has apparently been kicked into the long grass, Airbus can focus on marketing the existing model, alongside its other pressing priorities – including bringing the A320neo family, A330neo and A350-1000 to certification in the next few years.