The Airbus 380, the world's largest passenger airliner, has been saved from extinction by a dramatic last minute order by Emirates. After weeks of industry speculation as to whether production of the giant double-decker plane would cease due to insufficient demand, on January 18 Dubai-based Emirates Airline publicly signed a Memorandum of Understanding to purchase 36 additional aircraft, allowing the line to continue.
First introduced in 2007, the A380 was touted as the airliner of the future. The four-engine, long-haul aircraft was larger than the earlier Boeing 747, with two decks that ran the length of the fuselage to provide 40 percent more floor space than the 747-8. Airbus considered it the answer to airport congestion, but early delays and light order books soon brought into question the future of the Airbus A380 line.
These questions became particularly acute on Monday when Airbus CEO John Leahy said at a press conference that production of the A380 could soon come to an end unless new orders could be confirmed that would allow for the construction of at least six of the US$446 million planes that seat up to 853 passengers per flight.
According to industry analysts, the problems with the A380 stem from competition with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that, though it is a smaller aircraft, is seen as more comfortable and provides more frequent flights per day that are easier to fill rather than a few huge A380 loads that aren't as easy to fully book.
This was regarded as having a knock-on effect because a large part of a passenger liner's worth is wrapped up in its resale value. An A380 that has been well looked after for a decade by a top-tier airline can recoup a lot of its initial sticker price, but not if there isn't much demand for the craft in the first place.
Thursday's signing at Emirate Airline's Dubai headquarters by Leahy and Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, for 20 A380s and an option for 16 more worth US$16 billion dollars is still more of a lifeline than a guarantee of a secure future for the jet, but it will keep the production lines going for another decade.
"I would like to thank Emirates, HH Sheikh Ahmed, Tim Clark, and Adel Al-Redha for their continued support of the A380," says Leahy. "This aircraft has contributed enormously to Emirates' growth and success since 2008 and we are delighted that it will continue to do so. This new order underscores Airbus' commitment to produce the A380 at least for another 10 years. I'm personally convinced more orders will follow Emirates' example and that this great aircraft will be built well into the 2030s."
Emirates took delivery of its 100th A380 on November 3, 2017.
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