Airbus has strongly hinted that it is considering a moderate stretch of the A380 as part of a modernisation package tied to a potential engine upgrade on the type.
While the notion is only preliminary, the airframer has been gauging interest from possible customers.
Airbus had originally intended to stretch the A380-800 to a proposed -900, a version which would make better use of the -800’s wing.
But with the A380 experiencing slack sales, and with other aircraft programmes taking priority, the -900 has long been relegate only to a possible future initiative.
However, Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy – while unveiling the company’s global market forecast at the Paris air show – indicated that a revised stretch proposal was being floated to customers.
He says that the airframer is “discussing a little stretch” with some operators. The possible dimensions of such an aircraft have not been disclosed.
But Leahy tells Flightglobal that while the A380-900 would have raised the capacity of the baseline A380 by some 100 seats, to around 650, the revised stretch would be “about half that”.
He says that the timeframe for such a development would be around 2020, and that Airbus – if the programme became firmer – would “probably” still designate the proposed aircraft as the -900.
While Emirates has strongly backed a re-engining effort for the A380, Leahy discloses that the airframer is “talking to at least half-a-dozen” possible customers for such an initiative – although he adds that, should the airframer eventually proceed to a formal programme, the number involved in a launch phase would probably be fewer.
Airbus has previously leaned away from committing to any re-engining of the A380 for just a single customer – even one the size of Emirates – because it has yet to be convinced of a solid business case.