Unnamed sources quoted by Reuters claim the Dubai-based Emirates is considering converting some of its outstanding Airbus A380 orders for the much smaller A350 model. The airline currently has 112 of the double-deck A380 superjumbos in its fleet and a further 53 on order with French aerospace giant Airbus. Of those, 36 were ordered last year in a $16 billion USD deal that was said to have saved the A380 project from early closure.
Emirates is by far the largest operator of the A380 in the world but its enthusiasm for the aircraft has not been shared by the majority of other airlines. The Japenese airline ANA became the last airline to receive its first ever A380 late last year but Airbus has failed to secure any new orders for the aircraft type in years. The second-hand market for the A380 is also non-existent and most will likely be broken into scrap when their leases come to an end.
But it now looks like Emirates is reconsidering its commitment to the A380 as well. We already knew that bosses at the airline weren’t happy with the performance of the Rolls Royce engines destined for its as yet undelivered A380’s but competitor engine manufacturers weren’t particularly interested in making rival bids as the cost of research and development outweighed the potential payback.
Instead, Emirates is said to be considering converting some of those orders for the A350 which is widely seen at the Airbus equivalent of Boeing’s Dreamliner. The A350 comes in two sizes and list prices range from $280 million for the -900 model to $336 million for the stretched -1000 variant. In comparison, the A380’s list price is $445 million, although Emirates would likely receive a significant discount on those figures.
Emirates has already placed an order for 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner’s which is the longest variant of the 787 family designed for mid-range operations. The deal valued at $15 billion will see the first 787 join Emirates’ fleet in 2022 if all goes to plan. If Emirates were to supplement its 787 order with A350’s then expect to see the airline opt for the -1000 variant which can seat a maximum of 366 passengers and fly over 15,000km.
All three parties – Emirates, Airbus and Rolls Royce – have declined to comment on the rumour but if true Airbus would need to seriously reconsider the future of the A380 project. Reuters claims there is a possibility that factories could shut early on the back of a decision by Emirates.