Airbus keeps mum on A380 production ramp-up plan

By Max Kingsley-Jones

Airbus is declining to provide guidance on A380 delivery rates beyond 2009 and has warned that while production should stabilise in two years, market demand rather than industrial capability could determine output levels.

The airframer had originally planned to deliver 25 A380s in 2009, but revised this downwards to 21 aircraft last May after the transition to the production-standard wiring design, dubbed "Wave 2", ran into problems. Airbus chief executive Tom Enders confirms that this year's A380 deliveries will fall a further three aircraft short - at 18 aircraft. Production has been due to rise progressively to a rate of around 40 aircraft a year, but that stabilised target level is now unclear.

"We have made good progress after initial difficulties with the 'Wave 2' aircraft," says Enders, who adds that 2009 and 2010 "will still be ramp-up years, and I would hope that in 2011 output will come to the cruise [phase] - but we will also have to put into the equation the market environment and when our customers want their A380s, etc".

Airbus's chief salesman John Leahy says that "in 2008 everybody stayed with the aircraft", and no A380 cancellations were recorded. However, he acknowledges that the downturn will dampen demand for new orders in the near term and does not rule out possible deferrals. "This is clearly going to be a soft year for all aircraft orders so we'll probably be looking at around 10 A380 orders," he says.

Leahy says some new A380 operators "might decide they don't want to introduce an all-new aircraft with the market softening, and ask us if they could push back deliveries a bit". He emphasises, however, that no airline has yet made such a request.

Separately, Reunion-based carrier Air Austral is expected to take delivery of two all-economy A380s in 2014. The carrier has signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire two of the type, which will be configured with around 840 seats for its Reunion-Paris route. Leahy says Airbus expects the airline to confirm the order this year.

No specific arrangement for the upper and lower decks of the aircraft has been disclosed. The 840-seat, single-class configuration is by far the highest-density layout so far selected by an A380 customer. The A380 is certificated to accommodate up to 853 passengers following evacuation trials on the type three years ago.

Airbus claims that, with 840 seats, the A380 would burn less than 2 litres of fuel per passenger per 100km (55nm).

Air Austral's long-haul fleet comprises three Boeing 777-200s. The carrier is also leasing a pair of 777-300ERs.

© Reed Business Information 2009

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