Airbus Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Bregier (L) and Airbus Chief Operating Officer-Customers John Leahy (R) attend the annual Airbus Commercial Press Briefing in Blagnac, Southwestern France. Image Credit: REUTERS

DUBAI: As Emirates gives up on Airbus’ future version of the A380 aircraft, or the A380neo (new engine option) as it’s known as, Airbus chief says its biggest superjumbo customer continues to challenge it for an upgrade of the double-decker.

“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. 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.

“Regarding Emirates, what I can say is that I am very grateful that they are such a strong supporter of the A380 and that they are challenging us to say ‘we want to buy more, we want the new version, we will be your big customer’. So I believe that this is also a key to the future success of the A380 and future versions of this aircraft,” Fabrice Brégier, President of Airbus Commercial Aircraft and Chief Operating Officer of Airbus, told Gulf News in a webcast on Wednesday during its commercial aircraft media briefing.

Having pinned hopes on it for long, Emirates has slowly come to accept that the European planemaker is quietly going to kill the A380neo project. The world’s largest operator of the superjumbo, however, was until recently appealing for Airbus to continue making the aircraft.

“I can’t force Toulouse [Airbus’ home base in southern France] to do anything. My main concern is that they stop producing the plane,” Emirates President Tim Clark reportedly said in mid-last year.

Emirates is the world’s largest operator of A380s, with 89 currently in its fleet and a further 53 on order.

“We decided to keep what really made sense, which is to increase the seat count while keeping the big advantage of the A380, which is the quality as perceived by the passengers… the bars, the restrooms, the showers and all that. And this is what we are doing right now,” Brégier said Wednesday.

Emirates last month 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 agreements had been reached between Emirates and Rolls-Royce and between Emirates and Airbus.

Airbus maintains order lead

Airbus said Wednesday it posted an eight per cent jump in deliveries in 2016, having delivered 688 aircraft in the year to 82 customers, beating its previous record of 635 set in 2015, yet lagging behind Boeing which delivered 748 aircraft last year.

It, however, retained its order lead over rival Boeing clocking up 731 net orders from 51 customers in 2016, of which eight are new, against Boeing’s 668 net orders in the year.

At the end of 2016, Airbus’s overall backlog stood at 6,874 aircraft valued at $1,018 billion at list prices.

It is expecting to deliver more than 700 aircraft in 2017, its chief executive said. “We will continue to ramp up. As of today, we will be above 700 deliveries,” Brégier said.

“Next year, we will increase production again,” added John Leahy, Airbus’ Chief Operating Officer – Customers, said in the web briefing. “We are essentially sold out at this point. That doesn’t mean we can’t increase our production, and we will next year and the year after. We have to build what we already have orders for, not worry about getting new orders.”

IranAir takes delivery of first Airbus jet post-sanctions

PARIS: The head of IranAir took delivery on Wednesday of the first new Western jet under an international sanctions deal, calling it a “sunny day” for peace and friendship between Iran and Europe and a memorable one for aviation in the nation of 80 million people.

The 189-seat plane is the first of 100 ordered from Airbus following a deal reached in 2015 between Tehran and world powers to lift nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, in return for restrictions on the country’s nuclear activities.

IranAir Chairman Farhad Parvaresh invited the planemaking chief of Airbus to fly onboard the new A321, which has been painted in IranAir’s livery, to Tehran where the airline plans to mark its arrival in its fleet with a ceremony on Thursday.