Emirates May Replace Some A380 Orders With A350s — End Of The A380?

Filed Under: Emirates

The A380 may be in even more jeopardy than it was before.

At the beginning of 2018 Emirates gave the A380 a new lifeline. For years it had looked like production of the A380 would end, given that the plane hadn’t worked out the way Airbus had hoped, with very few new orders in the past few years.

Emirates loves the A380, and has over 100 of them in their fleet. They’ve been able to use the A380 to scale their operations in a way that no other airline has. Other airlines have instead opted for the 787 or A350, which are smaller aircraft that are easier to fill.

In early 2018 Emirates signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire 36 additional Airbus A380 aircraft, including 20 firm orders and the option for 16 more. The deal is valued at 16 billion USD based on list prices, though I think it’s safe to assume that Emirates got significant discounts.

Since then, there have been reports that Emirates was reconsidering this order. Specifically, an impasse had been reached regarding the engines on these newly ordered planes, as there were drawn out talks regarding the price and fuel burn of Rolls-Royce engines that are already falling short when it comes to performance parameters.

While we’re not sure if this is related or not, Reuters is now reporting that Emirates is exploring the possibility of switching some orders for the A380 to the A350. If this happened, it would almost certainly spell the end of A380 production.

Usually airlines and aircraft manufacturers don’t publicly comment on what’s going on behind the scenes with these discussions, but Airbus has confirmed that it’s “in discussions with Emirates airline in relation to its A380 contract.”

Emirates has been such a big advocate for the A380, so to see them reconsider their order is pretty surprising, since them swapping some orders doesn’t just mean the end of the A380 for them, but also the end for the plane altogether.

Keep in mind that Emirates has also ordered 40 Boeing 787-10s. The airline has long been laser focused on having a simple fleet, so long term we’d potentially be looking at the airline having A380s, 777s, 787s, and A350s.

It’ll be very interesting to see what ends up happening here….

  1. Maybe to keep the fleet simple they are canceling the 787 order and going all in on the A350 to replace both those and the 777s? Perhaps that’s something Airbus pushed for, letting them back out of the A380 order?

  2. Would be big news if true. While ‘the fat lady’ hasn’t started to sing yet, seems like she might be preparing in the wings.

    Would also be interesting to see how/what Emirates does, given they have roughly half of all A380s ever produced. Resale values would probably be minimal, so that would pretty much leave Emirates with few options but to continue operating them over the full 20- to 30-year lifecycle of the planes, no?

    A380s are such a large, quiet airplanes to fly in, it’s a pity the aircraft (and its four engines) are economically handicapped against large, long-range twin jets.

  3. Just curious why would airlines order the A350 and 787? Surely real simplicity is having all Airbus or all Boeing. I’m thinking about Turkish for example having a 50/50 split of A350s and 787-9s. Anyone know?

  4. Fleet complexity is absurd. There has to be a better way for an airline to be assured of long-term preferential pricing from Airbus or Boeing when committing to a specific model at the exclusion of the competition.
    Ultimately, I can’t imagine that Southwest really has an issue with preferential pricing on 737’s.

  5. Assuming the 777X lives up to its efficiency numbers once in service its hard for me to imagine how the A380 survives. Over 400 passengers in the 777-9 and up around 450 if Boeing finds enough interest for the 777-10. So the trade off is a little less capacity and a much more efficient airplane.

    Alternative is Airbus has to commit to new engines (assuming they can find a partner to do it) and maybe a new wing to increase efficiency. Given the low number of sales, how do they make those numbers work?

  6. Given the the rate of efficiency increase in recent years and how this has led to the death of the 380 in the last decade , how inefficient will the Airbus be if they have to keep it another 30 yrs?? Emirates, game over

  7. Keep in mind that Emirates have ordered A350’s in the past but canceled the order in 2014. So they aren’t new with the plans for the A350

  8. Dave, i’m not in the industry but my guess is some airline feel that hedging their bets with 50/50 of the same market aircraft is more important than any money savings from maintenance. Look at the problems Norwegian had/has with it’s 787s. Or even when the 787s first came out and were grounded due to the battery issues. Canceled flights, lost revenue and thus a loss of consumer confidence may all be worth the additional costs in the long run. Finally, as others have said, it gives them a big more flexibility in negotiations playing one manufacturer off the other.

  9. Remember Emirates also cancelled their order of 50 A350s and they also have the 777X on order as well as the 787-10…. If they’ve been uncertain on the A350 in the past they still maybe have doubts on the A350, (Although to doubt the A350 is pretty hard)

  10. Although i’d be sad to see the a380 go; A350 is the best widebody flying and sets a high bar for the 777X.

  11. EK have had a gap in the fleet after the 330/340 retirements (never mind the 313). The 781 definitely has superior trip and seat mile costs to the 359 and maybe even seat costs rivaling the the 351 (with significantly lower trip costs). The 359 has better range though. The 351 hasnt exactly set the world on fire with its sales since I think over 75% of the order book is for the 359. Once a subfleet exceed 25 units the economies of scale drop rapidly so adding a new fleet type will probably not be as expensive. Expect Boeing to have something to say about that idea though. BTW the XWB appellation is a load of hooey as the 350 fuselage is STILL narrower than the 777.

  12. “The airline has long been laser focused on having a simple fleet”
    but isn’t the consensus now that they went too far in just having the A380 and B777 and ended up restricting their options on thinner routes? so maybe they are prepared to have more diversity in the future.

    also, i think Willie Walsh suggested at the OneWorld event that he’s still interested in expanding the BA A380 fleet. he might get some Emirates production slots at the price he wanted – the cheeky little devil !

  13. I think it is a wise decision for Emirates to re-think the product mix for their aircraft. Not all destinations will have the capacity load to fill up the A380. It certainly gives an airline much more flexibility to think of newer routes with smaller aircraft. Comparatively, the A350 is a smaller but very effecient and comfortable option for some routes. I think Emirates is thinking of future competition and getting ready accordingly.

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