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Airbus looks beyond Dubai for A380 future

A visitor takes a photo of a model of an Airbus A380 plane at Aviation Expo China 2017 in Beijing. Chinese airlines could buy as many as 100 of the planes over the next five years. (Reuters)
LONDON: The future of Airbus A380 could be saved by growing demand from China, potentially offsetting a slowdown in orders for the super-jet by the aircraft’s biggest customer Emirates.
Chinese airlines potentially need between 60 and 100 A380 planes over the next five years as passenger traffic increases, Airbus’ China head Eric Chen told Reuters at an event in Beijing on Tuesday.
“When I look at the market flow, the passenger flow, route by route and the economics, I’m fully confident that the Chinese carriers will need a minimum of 60 A380s over the next 5 to 7 years,” he told the newswire.
If Chinese demand does pick up, it could help turn around the fortunes of Airbus’s beleaguered superjet, which has started to see its popularity decline globally as airlines — including Emirates — look to order more fuel-efficient planes such as the A350 and Boeing’s 787 model.
The A380 model was launched a decade ago, with the Dubai-based airline Emirates quickly becoming the largest buyer of the aircraft. As of the end of July, Emirates operated a fleet of 96 A380s, with a total order backlog of 46 planes. There has been a total of 317 orders for A380s worldwide to-date, according to Airbus.
The airline is set to introduce a fourth daily A380 service from Dubai to Sydney from March 25 next year, adding to its three existing A380 services on the same route. It is also due to take delivery of its 100th A380 later this year, announcing a number of special offers on flights to mark the occasion, according to a Sept. 12 statement from the airline.
While the aircraft model remains a central cog in Emirate’s current operations, it has slowed down the rate of A380 orders and deliveries. The airline placed an order for just two of the aircraft in 2016, which compares to 50 A380s it ordered at the Dubai Airshow in 2013.
At the end of 2016, Emirates deferred delivery of 12 A380s that were due for delivery over the next two years.
Dwindling demand for the A380 has hit Airbus’ planned deliveries. In its half-year results released in July, the plane maker revised down its A380 delivery schedule for 2019 from the planned 12 aircraft to just eight planes.
Operating planes as large as an A380 is no longer seen as a cost-efficient option for many airlines. The planes lack the fuel efficiency of newer aircraft models; have limited second-hand market appeal; and can’t operate at some airports due to size constraints, according to aviation analysts.
While China’s market holds promise, so far Airbus has sold and delivered just five A380s to China Southern Airlines, according to the plane maker.
Asia Pacific is one of the fastest growing aviation markets, with passenger traffic in June increasing by 9.1 percent compared to the same time period the previous year, according to data from IATA. In contrast, Middle Eastern carriers posted a 2.5 percent traffic increase, marking a slowdown in growth from the 3.7 percent recorded in May.

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