Airbus has confirmed that it is currently holding talks with Emirates over the carrier’s current Airbus A380 contract. The Gulf carrier is the largest operator of the type and may be looking at switching some of its orders from the A380 to the smaller, more versatile Airbus A350, according to a Reuters report.
In January 2018, the Dubai-based carrier placed a tentative order for an additional 36 A380s and then firmed that order up with 20 A380s that following February. However, earlier this month, Emirates announced that it was removing orders for 10 A380s.
The orders helped Airbus greatly, as the manufacturer was struggling with continuing production of the aircraft and the survival of the entire A380 program was at risk. Airbus recently stated that it would be cutting production of the A380 to just eight per year.
“Airbus confirms it is in discussions with Emirates Airline in relation to its A380 contract,” said Airbus in a statement. “Commercial discussions with customers remain confidential.”
Emirates still has orders for 53 A380s and has placed orders for 70 A350s in 2007, but ended up canceling that $16 billion order in 2014. The carrier also announced its intention to order 40 Boeing 787-10s at the Dubai Air Show but has not firmed up the order. The airline, however, can look forward to the Boeing 777X, for which it is the launch customer.
The switch from the A380 to the A350 would help to meet more of Emirates’ operational requirements and would reduce fuel costs on the airline, but would severely impact the Airbus A380 program. The program has long faced issues in finding an engine manufacturer that is willing to meet Emirates’ price and performance demands. With an order switch to A350s, Emirates and its preferred engine manufacturer, Rolls Royce, may look at smoother negotiations in terms of engine development for the carrier.
Emirates isn’t the first of the “Middle East Three” to evaluate the prospects of the A350. Rival United Arab Emirates carrier and fellow A380 operator Etihad looked at bringing the A350 into its fleet but canceled its order of 62 towards the end of last year.
Qatar Airways also operates the A380 but has also been increasing the number of A350s and Boeing 787s it brings into its fleet, with four remaining orders in place for the A350-900 XWB and 38 orders in place for the A350-1000 XWB. The Doha-based carrier was the launch customer and operator of the A350-1000 XWB, currently flying it on its most popular routes to destinations such as New York and London.