After having its future put in jeopardy, the A380, the largest passenger jet in the world, was once again in demand by most of its operators, including Emirate Airline, the largest customer of the Airbus aircraft.
With 118 jets in its fleet, Emirates is flying 80 of them and aims to have all the planes in service by 2023. It’s an unthinkable prospect two years ago when many critics and even airlines considered the massive two-deck aircraft to be outdated.
For Sir Tim Clark, who is chairman of Emirates, commercial aviation will miss the A380 in the near future. The Brit thinks that the A350-1000 and Boeing 777-9 don’t have enough capacity to replace it. “The biggest one will be the 777-9 which in our configuration will 364 seats against 484 on the A380s with our new premium economy,” Clark told CNN.
According to his prognosis, an annual growth in passenger air traffic will end up saturating airports, forcing restrictions on supply and, consequently, raising ticket prices.
The Emirates president cites the case of the Dubai-London (Heathrow) route, which since October 2021 has had six daily flights with the A380 that are always fully booked.
Open fan motors
With his unyielding candor, Sir Tim Clark says he has spoken with Airbus on more than one occasion about a replacement for the A380, if not bigger, at least more efficient.
Technologies such as structures in composite materials and more economical engines could reduce the operating cost of the aircraft in addition to making it more sustainable.
One of the technologies he points out is the open fan engine, which will be tested coincidentally on an A380 by Airbus.
Emirates, however, seems alone in its call for a new Super Jumbo after the early retirement of the A380 and the end of production of the Boeing 747 this year.
With its giant hub in Dubai, where 70% of passengers make connections, the Middle Eastern airline is a rare A380 customer.
Its competitors are now looking to fragment air traffic in order to offer more direct flights to destinations with lower demand and where jets like the 787, A330 and even the A321XLR seem to make more sense.