Emirates order pulls A-380 from brink of termination

LONDON • Airbus won a programme-saving order for its A-380 superjumbo that could be worth US$16 billion (S$21.1 billion) at list prices and add at least a decade to the model's lifespan.

Persian Gulf carrier Emirates, already the biggest A-380 customer, signed an outline agreement for 20 of the double-deckers with an option to buy 16 more, the Dubai-based company said yesterday, handing Airbus its first orders for the flagship model in more than two years.

The purchase will extend A-380 production until 2029 if Emirates takes all of the planes, according to Airbus, which as recently as Monday had acknowledged that the programme could be terminated without a new sale soon.

The carrier had scuttled a deal for the same number of aircraft in November amid doubts about the manufacturer's commitment to improving the plane.

"This new order underscores Airbus's commitment to produce the A-380 at least for another 10 years," Mr John Leahy, the planemaker's outgoing sales chief, said in a statement. "I'm personally convinced more orders will follow Emirates' example."

The new aircraft will be delivered from 2020, with engine options still under evaluation.

Rolls-Royce Holdings is supplying turbines as part of Emirates' most recent order for 50 A-380s, while the Engine Alliance of General Electric and Pratt & Whitney powered the previous 90.

If Emirates signs off on the full deal, it will have committed to a total of 178 A-380s, or more than half of all orders for the plane worldwide.

The carrier currently has 101 superjumbos in its fleet, and many older aircraft will have been phased out before the new batch arrives.

As of the end of last year, Airbus had a total of 95 unfilled A-380 orders, though only 48 of those, the vast bulk from Emirates, can be regarded as credible, according to Jefferies International analyst Sandy Morris.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'Emirates order pulls A-380 from brink of termination'. Print Edition | Subscribe