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Emirates signs up for a $16 billion-worth A380 order handing its lifeline

Anastasia Dagaeva
January 18, 2018

Emirates announced a deal for up to 36 Airbus A380 aircraft worth as much as $16 billion at list prices, saving the world’s biggest passenger jet from death row and securing its future for at least another decade, reports Reuters

The European planemaker said Emirates had placed a provisional order for 20 of the double-decker super-jumbos, with an option for 16 more. Deliveries are due to start in 2020. The agreement hands a lifeline to the slow-selling aircraft, in service for just 10 years, and rescues one of Europe’s most visible industrial symbols overseas. 

Bloomberg adds that the purchase will extend A380 production until 2029 if Emirates takes all of the planes, according to Airbus, which as recently as on January 15 had acknowledged that the program could be terminated without a new sale soon. The carrier had scuttled a deal for the same number of aircraft toward the end of last year amid doubts about the manufacturer’s dedication to improving the plane.

“This new order underscores Airbus’s commitment to produce the A380 at least for another 10 years,” John Leahy, the Toulouse-based company’s outgoing sales chief, said. “I’m personally convinced more orders will follow Emirates’s example.” 

After the signing, Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said: “We’ve made no secret of the fact that the A380 has been a success for Emirates. Our customers love it, and we’ve been able to deploy it on different missions across our network, giving us flexibility in terms of range and passenger mix». 

He added: “Some of the new A380s we’ve just ordered will be used as fleet replacements. This order will provide stability to the A380 production line. We will continue to work closely with Airbus to further enhance the aircraft and onboard product, so as to offer our passengers the best possible experience. The beauty of this aircraft is that the technology and real estate on board gives us plenty of room to do something different with the interiors.”

The airline has 142 of the type on order – of which 101 have been delivered – and the additional agreement, once finalized, will take the firm commitment to 162, and potentially 178 if all the options are exercised, reports FlightGlobal.

Fifteen A380s were delivered last year – nine to Emirates, and two apiece to Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines. Sales of the A380 have fallen short of expectation and rival Boeing says the future lies with smaller, twin-engine models like its 777 and 787 Dreamliner that offer more flexibility and are at least as efficient. But Airbus believes its 544-seat superjumbo still has a role as air traffic rises and airports become ever more congested.

Airbus’s failure to land the order in November at the Dubai Airshow left the manufacturer red faced, with Emirates pulling out just minutes before an announcement was due as dignitaries were gathering for the event. Salvaging the deal will be especially important to Leahy, allowing him to deliver a final coup before he retires after more than 20 years as the driving force of European aircraft exports. 

Photo via Wikipedia Commons / BriYYZ