A380 Production Line Will Remain Alive with Emirates Order

Engine choice for new aircraft yet to be decided.

Emirates Airbus A380

Emirates Airbus A380

Rumors of the Airbus A380's demise are short-lived, thanks to a new aircraft order from Emirates.Emirates

Just days after outgoing Airbus sales chief John Leahy announced the possible end of the A380 production line, because of dwindling orders for the giant four-engine aircraft, came word that Emirates, already operating 101 of the world's largest passenger aircraft decided it could indeed use another 36 airplanes, 20 firm orders and 16 options. Whether this was the end game of a cleverly orchestrated game of cat and mouse is still open to debate. Airbus needed fresh orders for the airplane to keep the line rolling, but Emirates has staked its entire sales strategy on the 550-seat airplane.

The joint Airbus/Emirates announcement flies in the face of what many a few months ago thought might be the end of the road for the A380, when Emirates left the Dubai air show declaring loyalty only to Boeing and that company’s 787, of which the airline ordered 40. Emirates plans to accept as many as six new A380s annually under the new order valued at $36B in list price numbers, although no one expects the airline will pay anything near that price.

One issue not settled with the new order is which engine will power the aircraft. Emirates has reportedly been unhappy with the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine performance and this time around invited both Pratt & Whitney Canada and General Electric to compete for a second option.

In other 380 news, Bloomberg reported yesterday that British Airways is also considering an order for new aircraft to supplement the 12 that airline already operates, as the UK carrier wrestles with ways to best leverage the limited landing slots available at its London Heathrow base. Airbus numbers show 222 A380s have been delivered with a backlog of just under 100 aircraft before the Emirates order.