European plane maker Airbus has ruled out plans to develop the A380neo, despite Emirates “challenging it for the new version”.
In May 2016, Emirates president Tim Clark said the Dubai carrier would buy more of the A380 superjumbo, even if Airbus decided not to press ahead with the more fuel efficient ‘Neo’ version.
Emirates is the world’s largest operator of A380s, having 89 aircraft currently in its fleet and another 53 on order.
In response to a question on A380neo at the company’s annual press briefing, Fabrice Brégier, CEO Airbus, said their current focus is to increase the seat count in the existing A380 than working on the new version.
“We have studied the possible evolution of the A380neo aircraft and we came to the conclusion that the time was not yet there to launch it,” he said.
“To do that we would need, of course, to inject some development cost and we would need to have a better environment from the market perspective, and also clear return on investment.
“So we decided to keep what really makes sense which is to increase the seat count whilst keeping the big advantage of A380, which is the quality as perceived by the passengers – the bars, restrooms and showers and all that and this is what we are doing right now.”
Brégier said Airbus is also looking at ways to add around 50 more seats by optimising the cabin layout without impacting the passenger comfort which has been seen as a major selling point for the aircraft.
The official said he was “very grateful” to Emirates for being a “strong supporter” of the A380, adding, “They are challenging us to say ‘we want to buy more, we want the new version, we will be your big ‘launch’ customer’.”
In December last year, Emirates said it is deferring delivery of six Airbus A380s from 2017 to 2018 and postponing delivery of another six A380s from 2018 to 2019.
Airbus said on Wednesday it posted an eight percent jump in deliveries in 2016, delivering 688 aircraft to 82 customers.