Rumors are swirling around the aviation world that Emirates is about to switch its remaining orders for the giant A380 superjumbo to the smaller and more versatile A350.
In a statement, the European manufacturer said: “Airbus confirms it is in discussions with Emirates Airline in relation to its A380 contract, commercial discussions with customers remain confidential”
But sources in Dubai tell AirlineRatings.com that the deal will involve Emirates switching its order to the A350.
Differences with engine-manufacturer Rolls-Royce relating to the efficiency of engines on the new planes are believed to be a key problem.
This would be the end of the A380 superjumbo program as Emirates is essentially the only major remaining airline committed to the program
The airline has 56 on order (with an option for 16 more) but the production rate is slowing to eight a year then down to six.
It is becoming clear that at these rates the A380 program is not viable and an Emirates re-commitment again to the A350 would be a major boost for that program.
The airline ordered 70 A350s in 2014 but later canceled them over range issues for the -1000 model.
While the A350 carries fewer passengers than the A380, its fuel economy, burning about 30 percent less fuel per passengers, is a big plus.
Emirates President Sir Tim Clark has been the A380’s greatest supporter. In an earlier interview with AirlineRatings.com, Sir Tim said that “the A380 is a passenger magnet. We operate five a day from Dubai to London’s Heathrow and they are 95 percent full.”
He said one of the problems for the giant jet is that “airlines are too conservative and have not put the right interiors into their A380s. Some of the interiors are a disgrace and use 1970s thinking.”
“We put all our premium seats on the upper deck and economy on the main deck, but others have mixed them which is inefficient. Our competitors laughed at us when we put showers and a lounge in the A380 superjumbo. But passengers love the showers and they love the lounge,” Clark said.
Emirates tried to get Airbus to build a new model, the A380neo, but other airlines were not interested.
Airbus warned before striking the deal with Emirates last year for 20 firm A380 orders and 16 options that it would shut down the superjumbo program without it.
Airbus Commercial Aircraft president Fabrice Bregier told media after the deal the manufacturer had determined it could keep production going with as few as six aircraft a year.
The manufacturer still maintains the A380 will see a renaissance despite the overwhelming popularity among airlines of newer, fuel-efficient twin-engine planes.