The head of the Dubai-based airline, which still operates Airbus’ jumbo jet, believes there is room for a plane as big as the A380 but lighter and with new engines.
Thanks to the strong recovery in world air traffic, the Airbus A380 resists when it was thought to be sacrificed on the altar of profitability.
Some companies continue to operate the world’s largest aircraft, such as British Airways, ANA, Qantas or even Lufthansa, which has announced that it wants to put it back into service from the summer of 2023.
But it is above all Emirates that continues to rely heavily on the superjumbo for its transcontinental connections thanks to a unique economic model and heavy investment in facilities, in particular with a Premium Economy class. It has 119 aircraft of this type and currently flies 74 successfully.
Composite fuselage and Open Fan
And while the airline industry is now focusing on smaller (single-aisle) and more fuel-efficient aircraft, Emirates is dreaming of a new generation of A380 to replace its fleet, which has just as large a capacity (500 to 600 seats) approx. ) but lighter and therefore less expensive for your operations.
In an interview with CNN Travel, its boss Tim Clark explains that the needs justify this new device based on forecasts of passenger traffic growth of 4.5% per year starting this year.
“Is it possible to redesign a new A380? Yes. Is it possible to lighten the aircraft? Yes. Imagine a composite wing and a mostly composite fuselage. What you have today. You get a lighter, much more fuel efficient aircraft that runs all the boxes on environmental issues”.
As for engines, he notes that “very interesting studies” are being carried out, but adds that most research in the last 20 years has focused on narrow-body aircraft. An open fan engine is one of the most promising new engine types and could actually reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 20%.
The cool aircraft manufacturers
Problem; if it will be tested on an A380, it is not intended to replace the A380 engines currently in operation. New planes will need to be designed to accommodate these engines.
And that is the problem. The leader regrets that neither Airbus nor Boeing plan to build a new plane the size of the A380. Currently, the largest aircraft offered by Airbus and Boeing are the A350-1000 and the upcoming 777-9, both of which can seat just over 400 people in a standard configuration. However, deliveries of these aircraft have been delayed and Tim Clark believes they are too small to replace the A380.
However, Airbus has made it clear that it will not launch a “Neo” version of the A380 if it is only demanded by Emirates. And at the moment, the major airlines don’t share Tim Clark’s dreams. The manager is aware of this.
“Do I think the airlines will mobilize and join this project? Doubtful at this point,” he laments. “On the one hand, I’m very interested in looking at it seriously, on the other hand, I’m not optimistic that ecosystem stakeholders are ready to do so.”
The particular model of Emirates
“Now things are starting to look much better (for the industry, editor’s note), demand is back. So the sector has the ability to think seriously about the future. Do you have an appetite for that? I don’t know. I know we do.” he continues.
The specialists also doubt the need for such a device, except for the particular economic model of Emirates.
“There is certainly room for a replacement Boeing 747, but I don’t think there is enough demand to launch a program for an aircraft larger than the A380. A very large aircraft is the key to Emirates’ business model, as 70% of their passengers connect to other flights, but I don’t think Airbus or Boeing would build one just for them,” said Geoff Van Klaveren, aviation analyst and CEO of independent aviation consultancy IBA.
Remember that Airbus has decided to stop production in 2019. In 2020, several major airlines such as Air France, Lufthansa or Thai Airways had announced its intention to abandon the operation of its jumbo jets such as the mythical A380. Already in the dock for their operating costs, the fate of these huge four-engines was sealed by the health crisis that paralyzed air transport. Its exceptional capacity had become a handicap, especially in terms of profitability.
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