Airbus urged to find more A380 buyers by Emirates chairman

The chairman of Emirates has urged Airbus to push its sales team harder to find more customers for the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

Emirates is the biggest operator of the A380, with 75 aircraft in service and 65 on order. The carrier this month ordered two additional A380s amid an uncertain future for the superjumbo programme.

“Where is an aircraft with just one customer?” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, the chairman of Dubai Airports and Emirates Group, said at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. “They have to push their sales team to do much better, especially now, because this aircraft has been in the market for eight years.”

The double-decker plane that can carry more than 540 passengers has been key to the carrier’s aggressive global route expansion and surging traffic numbers through its hub at Dubai International Airport. It is already the world’s busiest airport for international travel, and passenger numbers topped 7.24 million in March.

But while the aircraft has suited the rapid growth trajectory of Emirates and the hub strategy of Dubai, its take up among many other global carriers has been slow.

Emirates has been pushing for a more ­fuel-efficient model of the plane before committing to any new purchases. Fuel is the largest component of an airline’s cost and makes up 28 per cent of Emirates’ operating costs.

Question marks have hung over the A380 programme since 2014, when Airbus first raised the possibility of discontinuing production because of a lack of new orders. That triggered a number of exchanges between executives from Emirates and Airbus over the future of the programme.

The order revealed this month from the Dubai carrier was the first new A380 purchase from Emirates since 2013, when it took 50 of the aircraft.

“For us the A380 is the flag aircraft for Emirates today besides the Boeing 777. We think that it’s an aircraft that we really want to continue with in the future,” Sheikh Ahmed said. “A lot of people were surprised that we took so many of them with 500 seats. We managed to fill them up.”

The Airbus chief executive, Fabrice Bregier, told CNN in February that he was still optimistic about its future despite slow sales.

Emirates, the world’s largest international airline by number of passengers, expects to fly 55 million passengers this year, up from about 50 million passengers a year ago.

Sheikh Ahmed also said the airline’s growth would not be limited by capacity issues at Dubai International. “We always have solutions,” he said.

Sheikh Ahmed, who is also the president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, expects Dubai’s two airports to be handling about 200 million passengers by 2023.

Dubai International last year ranked third in terms of the world’s busiest airports, after it carried 78 million passengers.

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