Airbus is confident that the strong traffic growth airlines are currently enjoying will create "a mindset change" that will reignite sales for the A380. That's why the manufacturer remains resolute in its view that the long-term demand for ultra-large aircraft is over 1,700 aircraft.
Airbus sold just nine A380s in 2012 and had announced no new airline orders in 2013 prior to the Paris air show. This is a legacy of the financial crisis and ensuing global recession that has existed since just after the A380 entered service in 2007, says Airbus's senior vice-president marketing, Chris Emerson. But he predicts that the recent high load factors and traffic growth will change airline thinking and revive interest in the ultra-large A380.
"During the recession there was a contraction of seats and this changed the mindset of the airlines," says Emerson. "We were marketing a 525-seat aircraft during the recession, and that reflected the mindset during that period because the perception was that the aircraft was risky with airlines wondering 'would I fill the seats?'
"Now we're seeing load factors at a record high... it's about 'do I have enough seats to capture the traffic growth?' And if you want to capture this growth, you need the A380 because its size is in a class of its own. With three consecutive quarters of traffic growth, the time is now."
As part of its new "Own the Sky" marketing drive, Airbus has increased the A380's baseline three-class configuration from 525 seats to 558 - very close to the 555-seat layout it used in early A380 marketing campaigns. This higher seat-count is achieved by moving all premium seating to the upper deck which means "you can really take advantage of the main deck", says Emerson.
But the spark needed to reignite sales will be "a mindset change", he says. "It's not the last half decade where airlines were fearful they wouldn't find the passengers to fill the aircraft, now it is 'if we build it, they will come' - you have to have the seats out there."
At 31 May, total A380 orders stood at 262, of which 103 have been delivered.
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