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ators within the Asia-Pacific region. Airbus went on to say that over
180 million passengers have enjoyed the A380 240 airports can
accommodate the aircraft and it makes over 300 flights per day.
When asked about the future of the A380 the Airbus spokesper-
son said "the A380 is here to stay and is the aircraft of the future.
With passenger tra ic doubling every 15 years the A380 is the
solution for sustainable growth. It can help decongest airports on
the growing number of high volume high tra ic and heavily travelled
routes many of which are in the Asia-Pacific region."
Regarding Asia Airbus said: "Some 99 percent of future long-haul
tra ic will be between mega-cities many in the Asia-Pacific region.
Today 54 percent of A380 capacity is from to or within the Asia-Pa-
cific region and 18 percent are on regional flights within Asia. High
demand and congestion means that this region in particular needs
the A380." So it would seem that the
Airbus view of the A380 and where
it fits in the market has not changed
much since 2000 when the project
was given approval by the board.
A look behind the figures shows
just how precariously balanced the
future of the A380 actually is. Of the
218 aircraft in service 100 are fly-
ing with just one airline Emirates
which has built its business strategy
around the A380 mega-hub model. Emirates is also the lifeline
keeping the A380 in production. While Airbus reports an order
backlog of 98 planes it is widely accepted that apart from 42 or-
dered by Emirates few other orders can be classed as firm.
Emirates welcomed its 100th A380 at a special ceremony on 3
November and the airline's chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed
Al-Maktoum said "for Emirates the A380 has been a success...We
remain committed to the programme and will work closely with
Airbus and our partners to continually enhance our A380 product
as we look ahead to receiving our remaining 42 aircraft on order."
It was expected that Emirates and Airbus would confirm an
additional A380 order at the Dubai Air Show in November but
this did not materialise and judging by the comments of Emirates'
president Tim Clark the two parties have a way to go to reach
agreement. Clark said " The undertaking Airbus will have to make
is that the line will continue for 10-15 years and that a further
commitment (by Emirates would not be at risk." The airline and
the Dubai government want absolute certainty that Airbus will
continue building A380s for at least that period before committing
to any future orders.
It is also clear that the A380plus option o ered by Airbus which
includes removing the large forward staircase and adding more
economy seats is not a hit with Emirates. Clark said "we would
rather they just o ered us the continuation of the line." When your
(almost only customer tells you they want no change it is hard to
understand Airbus pushing a new version.
In e ect it is Emirates which is controlling the future of the A380
and not Airbus. At a planned production rate of eight aircraft a year
there is less than six years of production left unless Airbus is able
to find other customers as demand for aircraft travel increases
particularly in slot-congested Asian markets.
A loyal supporter is Singapore Airlines which has committed to
maintaining its A380 fleet at 19 by replacing five of its oldest aircraft
with new A380s and returning the older aircraft to their lessors.
Singapore recently launched new premium cabin layouts and will
be retrofitting these to the 14 aircraft they own over the next three
years and thereafter will have a common configuration on all their
A380s. CAPA Analysis reports that Singapore's A380 capacity will
increase by 14 percent and puts the cost of the retrofits at around
US$850 million. CAPA also notes that Singapore has no intention
of increasing the A380 fleet beyond the current 19 and that they
are likely to keep their owned aircraft for more than 15 years due
to a lack of resale options.
Yeomans the IBA.iQ analyst said "if the early Singapore redeliveries
are an indicator of secondary market demand then the A380 will be
di icult to place. In IBA's view the market will not be able to absorb
A380 aircraft en masse so the commitment of key carriers (mainly
Emirates to continue operating the aircraft will dictate the fate of the
A programme. He added: "With a largely untested secondary mar-
ket and limited operator base residual values are likely to be weak."
Just as they were born in very di erent times the big jets are now
being seen as heading for later life with quite di erent contributions.
The 747 is being venerated making final appearances cast in period
costume with curtain calls and champagne flowing as befits such
a beautiful and tireless contributor. It will live on as the 747F for
many years to come as a cargo carrier shifting the boom in online
purchases --- an aircraft born in the 1970s serving the e-commerce
needs of the 21st century.
The run of the A380 was expected to be in full swing by now
but with few orders to make and a growing fractiousness with its
main customer its demise is being openly reported only 10 years
on from its first commercial flight. The era of the Big Jets may be
fading but with the huge growth in airline traffic predicted between
now and 2035 it is just possible the A380 might be able to carve
out a new niche in high-volume point-to-point routes that may
not even exist today.
I I ie the m rket ill ot be ble to b orb 380 ircr t
e m e o the commitme t o ke c rrier (m i l mir te )
to co ti e o er ti the ircr t ill dict te the te o the
380 ro r mme. ith l r el te ted eco d r m rket
d limited o er tor b e re id l l e re likel to be e k.
MIKE YEOMAN , IBA
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