Fabrice Bregier, CEO of Airbus Commercial, threw cold water on the prospects of an A380neo and an A350-1100, the latter to compete with the Boeing 777-9.
Bregier’s position on the A350-1100 leaves Boeing with a monopoly at the 400-seat marker. Boeing doesn’t view the 777-9, which nominally seats 407 passengers, as part of the Very Large Aircraft sector which begins at 400 seats. Rather, Boeing lumps the -9 into the medium-twin aisle sector (300-400 seats).
While Airbus continues to struggle with sales for the A380, Boeing doesn’t much talk about the 747-8I anymore, focusing primarily on the future potential of the 747-8F. Boeing bravely talks about the prospect of four or five customer sales for the 747-8I this year, including a strong wishful-thinking of an order from Emirates Airlines (president Tim Clark says he’s not interested).
Airbus hasn’t sold a single A380 so far this year, and aviation circles say that last November’s order for 50 A380s from Emirates was tied to the cancellation of the 70 A350s, announced last month, by the Dubai-based airline. Neither Airbus nor Emirates will comment on this.
Oddly, Emirates says it will run a new competition of A350/787-10 sized aircraft, with a decision next year.
Airbus had publicly questioned whether there was a market for the A350-1100. Airbus and Boeing each forecast a 20-year market of perhaps 650-750 aircraft–and Boeing already has orders and commitments for about 300, primarily from Middle Eastern airlines (an Airbus bread-and-butter market), leaving little room for the prospective -1100.
Then there was the question of what would the airplane look like: a simple, 787-10-style stretch with shorter range than the A350-1000; or adding a new engine that would further eliminate commonality between A350 sub-types, already a sore point with Emirates and its A350-900/1000 order.
But a new engine for the -1100 didn’t provide much of a business case by itself. Enter the prospect of an A380neo, for which Emirates’ Clark has been agitating. There isn’t a business case for an A380neo, but an engine that could perhaps serve the -1100 and A380neo began to make sense.
Rolls-Royce is designing the “Advance” engine for about 2020, just about the time both airplanes would need to be ready for service. Neither Pratt & Whitney nor GE Aviation showed any interest in the A380neo, and RR has an exclusive contract for the A350-1000. (RR is the exclusive supplier for the A350-900 and the now-done for -800, but it is possible a second power source could one day be added to the airplane.)
Could one day Airbus officials change their mind and proceed with the -1100 and an A380neo? Of course they could. How often did they say “no” to the idea of an A320neo or an A330neo? Furthermore, re-engining jetliners is commonplace and becoming so more frequently than in the past. On this, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Meantime, the 777-9 will, in our view, sign the death knell for the 747-8I. It’s already been morbid-bound for many years and we don’t expect any prospective sales to be in any quantity to be meaningful to the future of the program.