By Ed Attwood
Move to revamp superjumbo suspended as largest customer waits for switch to new airport
Airbus is putting the development of a revamped version of its A380 aircraft on hold as the superjumbo’s biggest customer, Emirates Airline, faces capacity constraints at its Dubai hub.
Bloomberg reported a senior official at Airbus as saying that the re-engined model of the A380, which has been requested by Emirates, is unlikely to be launched for about another decade.
“They’re [Emirates] not in a position to go ahead, and if they’re not in a position to go ahead with A380neo, we certainly aren’t,” Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy told the newswire. “They would be a key launch customer.”
Emirates is by far the largest customer for the superjumbo, having ordered 140 aircraft. It has also expressed an interest in buying around 100 of the newer A380 if it is built.
However, in recent years, orders from other airlines for the A380 have dwindled, and support from other customers for the A380neo looks limited.
“That airplane, if we did it, would come out in the middle of the next decade,” Leahy said Tuesday. “There’s nothing imminent about that airplane.”
While capacity at Dubai International Airport has risen to 90 million passengers a year thanks to the recent launch of Concourse D, further growth at the airport remains limited.
Last year, 78 million passengers made their way through the airport, making it the busiest in the world for international traffic.
At some point in the mid-2020s, Emirates will shift its operations over to Al Maktoum International Airport in Jebel Ali, which could handle as many as 240 million passengers a year.
Last year, Emirates president Sir Tim Clark said that the airline could double in size after it makes the switch over to the new airport.