Airbus decision on axing biggest airliner looms

PARIS • Airbus is nearing a decision to axe production of the world's largest airliner and may give an update with full-year earnings today, industry sources and analysts said.

The fate of the A-380 superjumbo has been in doubt since a vital order from Emirates foundered over inconclusive engine talks, forcing Airbus and the airline to weigh an alternative plan that would trigger a premature halt to A-380 production.

Under the proposed reshuffle, first reported by Reuters, Airbus hopes to broker a deal that would see Emirates switch part of its order to smaller models like the A-350 or A-330, while eking out a few last-minute A-380 orders from British Airways.

The timing of any final announcement may be driven by the outcome of those talks, but Airbus will be under pressure to provide some clarity on its plans in time for today's earnings announcement, following mounting speculation over the plane's future.

"The A-380 is the elephant in the hangar; it will be impossible to avoid saying something on the subject," said Agency Partners analyst Sash Tusa, who predicted last week that a decision to shut the loss-making programme may be imminent.

The A-380 is already on life support due to weak sales. Barring a surprise breakthrough in stalled engine talks between Emirates and Rolls-Royce, the A-380's French and German factories are unlikely to survive beyond 2020, analysts said.

Any decision to pull the plug on the iconic European double-decker after just 12 years in service must be approved by the Airbus board, which was set to meet yesterday.

Airbus declined to comment ahead of the earnings announcement.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'Airbus decision on axing biggest airliner looms'. Print Edition | Subscribe