Willie Walsh’s enthusiasm for the A380 – and disclosure that British Airways is looking at adding up to half a dozen used examples to its fleet – only serves to remind us what an enigma the Airbus big beast is.

The chief executive of IAG – which is eyeing second-hand A380s for Spain’s Iberia as well as the UK flag-carrier – is a huge fan of the double-decker and loves the way BA has been able to, for instance, free up a ­precious Heathrow slot by swapping three Boeing 747 services to Los Angleles with two A380s.

According to Walsh, the superjumbos are flying full; passengers love them and they make a bold brand statement. So why does BA, the biggest operator of ­747-400s, not want any more new A380s than the 12 it has already ordered? Quite simply, it would seem, ­because the $430 million price tag is too high. There are only certain routes where BA can be sure these four-engined 550-seaters would pay their way.

This is Airbus’s quandary. Discount its new A380s much more to convince the likes of Walsh and the programme will never break even. Hold firm on price and airlines are likely to stay wary.

Toulouse may be struggling for orders, but Walsh’s paean to the ultra-large aircraft suggests that the A380 could enjoy an unlikely second life on the secondary market. Perhaps Airbus’s superjumbo may not be quite the white elephant many suspected.

Source: Flight International