June 18, 2015: The industrial part of the Paris Air Show is over, and here are some closing odds and ends. We may have some more next week when we decompress.
A350-1100 and A380neo
The prospect of an Airbus A380neo was one of the top topics this week. Airbus suggested a neo might include a modest stretch, which was the only piece of new information about the neo topic in the public press conferences. We have more on this after this….
The Wall Street Journal reported that Airbus is talking with customers about the prospect of a stretch of the Airbus A350-1000, commonly referred to as the A350-1100. The Seattle Times reported there are no customer talks (link not available-we used up our free access, but you could search The Times).
We asked John Leahy, chief operating officer-customers of Airbus about the A380neo and the -1100 on the sidelines of the closing Air Show press conference:
“We look at a lot of things,” Leahy said. “We’ve been looking at it but it’s not obvious yet it makes a lot of sense. It would have 40 more seats and it might have a bigger fan on the engine. But the real question is, are we chasing something that’s not there [a demand]? We know why [Boeing] added 40 seats to the 777X [-9]. The 350-1000 killed the 777-300ER. They are trying to put lower seat-mile costs on the 777X. They have a bigger and heavier airplane and they need to lower seat mile costs.
“We’re now looking at, is the market shifting in their direction? If it is, then we should be looking at a straight stretch of the A350-1000. The debate is still going on. I think we will have something by the end of this year or the beginning of next year as to whether we would do it or not.”
There is a large product gap between the -1000 and today’s A380. If Airbus stretches the airplane to seat 50-100 more passengers as part of a neo package, this gap would increase, making the A350-1100 more desirable to fill this gap.
Leahy said a decision on the A380neo will likely come by the end of this year or early next year. There are market expectations that a decision would come at the Dubai Air Show in November. Emirates Airline, the largest customer for the A380 and the one pressing most for a re-engined A380, is headquartered in Dubai. Leahy wouldn’t commit to a decision by then.
“It’s too early to say,” he said.
A350-900 vs 787-10 thrust
Leahy weighed in on the controversy that emerged last week at the IATA AGM, which emerged after our interview with Emirates president and COO Tim Clark. Clark said the Boeing 787-10 has insufficient thrust for his operations out of Dubai in the very hot summers. The A350-900 has the thrust but is heavier than the 787-10. The issue became a heated international debate.
Leahy said Clark “is right that the 787-10 is very much under-powered, so I don’t know how it’s going to work well at all in the Middle East in high temperatures. It’s not going to work well anywhere where you have high temperatures or high altitude.”
Defenders of the 787-10 point out that Emirates’ neighbor, Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, also in the UAE as is Dubai, ordered the airplane. If it works for Etihad, why won’t it work for Emirates, they ask. Leahy gave no ground.
“We haven’t seen that it works for Etihad yet. Maybe [CEO Jim Hogan] only wants to fly it at night,” Leahy quipped. “We know that they have very limited performance in hot temperatures and high altitudes.”