Speculation is growing that Airbus may draw the curtain on its A380 superjumbo program Thursday as it hands down its annual results.
Reuters said Wednesday the European manufacturer was nearing a decision to ax the big plane amid indications Emirates was revising a crucial order that underpins ongoing production.
Quoting sources and analysts, Reuters said Airbus was likely to give an update at its results.
Emirates operates the world’s biggest fleet of A380s and has been the aircraft’s staunchest supporter.
It has 53 aircraft left on order but is looking to replace some of those planes with smaller twin-engine aircraft after talks with engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce failed to produce the increase in efficiency the Dubai airline is seeking.
Airbus is hoping to convince Emirates to switch some of the order to A350 or A330neo aircraft.
The decision to wind down the program, which must be approved by the Airbus board, comes as Qantas formally canceled its remaining order for eight A380s and Qatar chief executive Akbar Al Baker criticized the plane as too heavy and fuel-hungry.
The Qantas cancellation was not a surprise as the airline had made it clear for several years that it was not taking the additional planes.
The A380 was thrown a lifeline in early 2018 when Emirates signed a deal for up to 36 aircraft to be delivered from 2020.
The deal for 20 firm orders and 16 options was valued at $US16 billion at list prices and allowed Airbus to continue production.
Since the A380 was designed in the late 1990s, however, much lighter, all-composite aircraft have emerged like the 787 and A350 that burn about 34 percent less fuel per passenger.
The A380s engines have been leap-frogged twice and the new 777X to be rolled out shortly will burn around 40 percent less fuel per passenger because of its new generation General Electric engine – the GE9X.
Airbus tried to interest airlines in an upgraded A380 neo but only Emirates was interested.
One of the biggest arguments for the A380 was capacity limited Heathrow Airport in the UK.
Many airlines purchased the A380 because of the landing slot constraints at Heathrow and needed the A380 to get more capacity.
But now many of these airlines fly to other destinations in the UK such as Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Cardiff.
And airlines such as Emirates offer over 50 destinations in Europe giving travelers far more options.
Another problem for A380 operators is the lack of enthusiasm for second-hand planes, suggesting many will end up parked in the desert.