The Airbus A380 superjumbo continues to have a future due to capacity constrained airports such as Heathrow.
The reaffirmed commitment to the giant aircraft came as the European manufacturer revealed record deliveries across its family of jets in 2016.
Sales of the double decker A380 have dipped with just 319 orders in total. But Airbus commercial aircraft president Fabrice Bregier said he was certain the superjumbo’s time would come.
“Some 10% of the passengers going through London Heathrow are on the A380,” he said, adding this figure is steadily rising. What I have to accept is the very slow commercial performance we have with the A380.
“But there is a future with this aircraft: more airports will become like Heathrow with congestion and this aircraft will have a bigger market share.”
Sales chief John Leahy added: “There is no doubt the market is soft at the moment but it is a matter of timing – and I believe it will be sooner rather than later.
“We have to shift to bigger aircraft and all economic indicators point to that. Air traffic doubles every 15 years and there is no more room – I can’t comprehend how the market will be satisfied without bigger aircraft.
“China might be able to build new mega airports but you just can’t build another Heathrow or Charles De Gaulle or LAX [Los Angeles international airport].”
The company would break even on the giant aircraft at the lower production rate, said Bregier, adding that Airbus “would get through this slow time for the A380” and he that he hoped the rate would increase with “additional evolutions of the A380 family”.
This could be a signal that a version with different engines or a new design capable of carrying more passengers may be back on the drawing board, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Airbus delivered a total of 688 aircraft to 82 customers in 2016, an 8% rise on the previous record of 635 aircraft set the previous year.
These included 545 single aisle A320 family aircraft, including 68 A320neos; 66 A330s, 49 A350 XWBs and 28 A380s. More than 40% of single aisle deliveries were the larger A321 models.
Airbus achieved 731 net orders from 51 customers in 2016. These included 607 single aisle and 124 wide-body aircraft. At the end of 2016, Airbus’ overall backlog stood at 6,874 aircraft valued at more than $1,018 billion at list prices.
“We delivered on our objectives in a challenging environment, proving our ramp-up readiness for the future,” said Bregier.
“Our strong operational performance combined with a robust market eager to place orders and take deliveries of aircraft in all sizes are now an excellent springboard for our next steps – boosting deliveries, harnessing the advantages of digital and extending our service portfolio globally.”
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