Airbus A380neo not yet a project

July 21, 2015: The London Sunday Times created a stir over the weekend when it headlined an interview with Airbus Commercial CEO Fabrice Bregier that Airbus “commits” to an A380neo project.

Drilling down into the story and checking with Airbus, as well as going back to Bregier interviews at the Paris Air Show and one we did with him at the IATA AGM in early June, it’s clear the Sunday Times was somewhat exuberant in its headline.

Bregier in reality said what he’s been saying for months: that enhancements to the A380 are needed, with specifics to be defined. Whether a re-engining and wing changes are pursued still need a business case, which continues to be studied.
Leeham News and Comment has, on its own, previously concluded that an A380neo with Rolls-Royce engines, a new treatment to the wing tips, aerodynamic clean up and other improvements would be beneficial to the airplane’s economics.

We continue to believe that the prospects of a decision are likely to occur for the Dubai Air Show. Emirates Airline, the largest customer for the A380, is also the strongest proponent for the A380neo. Neighboring Qatar Airways has also expressed interest in the neo.

53 Comments on “Airbus A380neo not yet a project

  1. I think the “when” not “if” is hanging over a NEO and depends on many factors. The risk of current CEO customers “delaying” deliveries being one of them.

    Also overall VLA market prospects play a role. Watch e.g. United’s Smisek taking a stab at his A380 Alliance partners LH, SQ, EVA, Thai and Asiana.

    “That is a product for state-subsidised airlines, or airlines that have it and wish they didn’t”

    • Finally, there’s the matter of the A380neo. This very bad idea would never happen in any kind of rational economic world. But the alternative – ending the A380 program – might be too traumatic for a country that’s hell-bent on aeronautical glory. The 380neo is still not in our forecast, but my top post-Le Bourget conclusion is that this abomination has a better chance of being launched (and then failing anyway) than I had thought. France’s aerospace strategy, like any industrial strategy, occasionally creates epic failures.

      • Wise after the event, but if Airbus management hadn’t completely screwed up with the CATIA version control, where would the A380 program be?

    • Mr keesje my opinion is that i cannot see a clear business case. The a380neo is been supported mainly by emirates and indierctly by qatar airways. But these are the positions of just two airlines. The rest of the airline industry is noncommital because they think the savings of the new engines will be negated by the weight and size of the new engine.
      Now for the very first time i am asking mr hamilton to answer my question:
      Does the a380neo makes financial sence ? Justify your answer

  2. airbus knows that the can not start an a38oneo. the reason is that the advanced can only offer a 5% reduction in fuel reduction due to weight and the ultrafan thrust size is for narrowbodies and the MOM in the very upper end. But that does not mean airbus does not have options. Engine alliance
    said that they offer 2.5% fuel reduction package .Also new winglets and aerodynamics enhancements can offer another 4%. Another good adition is a full 7 meter strech. this will two major advantages
    1. lower fuel consumption per seat
    2. add 10 LD3 containers. this mean that the 380 will have the same cargo capacity as with the 777-9X.
    As an option i strongly recommend to airbus to raise the cabin floor by 2-3 inches and reduce the thickness of the cabin walls so it can an 11 abreast with 19 inches wide seats 2 inches armrests and 20 inches wide aisles.The 11 abreast seating together with the stretch can reduce the fuel consumption by 16 percent. add and the PIP and we are talking about a whoping 23%. Airbus has options but we shoould hear emirates say for them

  3. Is there any financial sense in doing an A380neo? The A380 is not doing that great as it is (sales), and will making a neo really change that?

    Sure Tim Clark might indeed be ‘in for a hundred’ (or more) like he said at WEF, and Al Baker has shown interest in the neo – but is there any one else who will buy more than a couple?

    I understand there’s broader issues like jobs etc around letting the A380 project wind down, but won’t this just add more financial stress on the company?

    Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts around the mythical A350-1100. Is there a case for this plane or has that market already been fully covered by the 777-9?

    • Try to separate the neo from the oeo.

      At its most simplistic.
      If Airbus don’t invest in neo, they sell X A380 before end of line.
      If Airbus do invest in neo, they sell Y A380 before end of line.

      If the profit from Y – X > neo development funds, then its worth doing.

      Of course, right now they are just about breaking-even per frame, so profit(Y – X) is not going to add up to much.

      • Not quite. A simple increase in profit ordinarily is not enough. Most importantly it must also meet or exceed Airbus’ agreed IRR. Then throw in the spanners of internal cashflow and resource issues, competitive impact on Boeing’s profitability, cash and resource positions etc., supplier stuff and out pops the range of options answer du jour, which will be different to the answer du another jour.

    • I’m fairly sure the -1100 will happen, but not for a few years till -1000 production is stabilised.

    • I think the 777X will be a heavy aircraft and noticeable uncomfortable if used long haul 10 abreast.
      -> Not unimportant or going away.

      The biggest 777 operators (UA/CO, AA/US, DL/NWA, BA/IB, LH, AF/KL, SQ, JAL, CX, QR, EY, Chinese) ordering A350XWB’s in good numbers should have sounded alarm signals years ago. (It seems the reality of the market shift is still in a denial phase..)

  4. Airbus needs definitely more ceo orders: from 2018 there is only one costumer (EK), can they fill the gap until A380neo EIS? let’s see… and talking about customers: (EK of course) but no words by now from QR, BA, LH, AF… do they really need this A380neo? Can only one customer support the A380neo investment?

  5. I want to assume that Airbus Commercial CEO Fabrice Bregier has learnt some lessons from some of the recent aviation events.

    The A380 is no doubt an aviation phenomenon but it obviously came late to the party. Airbus should be carefully reasonable in determining if and when to neo the A380 so they don’t make the same mistake twice.

    There have always been talks about the A380neo, there’s a talk about A350-1100, and most recently a talk about a possible A350-900LR. That sounds like a full plate that requires absolute excellence on the part of Airbus to manage.

    As for all those over ambitious journalists, they shouldn’t forget that OEM’s and Airlines’ CEOs and aviation enthusiasts have common sense after all.

    • I assume that those in charge at Airbus have indeed learned from past lessons and shall be careful about not throwing good money after bad.

      As for your comment about them having a full plate, I do believe you overstate the case there.

      All of their development programs are more or less winding down now. The A350-900 and -1000 ramp up are probably the most challenging issues but Airbus will be using production engineers to focus on that. This leaves quite a few people sitting there with not much to do.

      All of these projects you have listed are derivations which do not require the full engineering resources that Airbus has at hand. Certainly they will be considering the priorities for all of these projects, assuming they will all go ahead.

  6. Thanks Scott for highlighting that the Sunday Times story was actually over a month old. I don’t why others on another aviation site didn’t notice that.
    For Airbus this is another A340 moment. Do they stick or twist? We all know what happened there. Had they have focused on the A330 instead of the 345/6….. Fortunately Boeing helped them there with the nightmares of the 787.
    Airbus must contend with the 77x and what may possibly come in the future to face the A380. I assert there’ll be a 781ER and 781X which, combined, will be as successful as the 773ER. Airbus cannot cede that ground again. a380 ceo or neo cannot compete in the jumbo sector, world beating CASM or not.
    As much as I love the A380, Airbus must focus on developing A3511 in order to own the jumbo market, (777x is a gap filler not a class leader) then develop the 380 neo later, if at all.

  7. I have some sympathy with the argument that the a3511 should be a critical consideration, at the same time that product will struggle to gain slots over existing orders even at 13 a month into the future.

    I see the NEO as a must in some shape or form. The A380 gives Airbus headroomfor when the market comes to it in 2025 onwards. If it is lost then A will be subservient to B for 15 years into the future in the WB sect

    Note I started gaining an understanding of the industry in the late 70s/ early 80s and at that time most commentary was talking about the DC10/L1011 being the right size and the 747 as a potential failure. The 400 cemented the 747 as the aircraft of choice going forward, many years after the original development.

    I see the a380 in a similar light. It needs to be re-engineered to enhance its strengths and reflect new developments and technology. If they bring a cocktail of improvements suggested then it will steadily grow its fleet and eventually could get well.

    Pt The development is a no brainier it is just what should be done and over what timeframe.

    • As current sales are one customer, and you propose putting a bucket full of money into a derivative that still has only one customer, I indeed find that a no brainer but in the opposite lobe as it were.

      If there is a case its not been made in sales

    • Money quote:

      Airbus may have a slight advantage in single aisles, but Boeing’s twin-aisle product line superiority implies a 55% market share by value across the board, assuming it can execute as planned on the 777X and 787-10. The odds are heavily against Airbus’s finding the resources to compete in the 360-450-seat twinjet segment for the next 10 years.

  8. Improve the engine or wait and invest in a new one? Stretch, yes. Lighter materials in wing and winglets, or folding wingtips? Could a 90m wingspan A380 land in LA without moving the runways?

    • “Could a 90m wingspan A380 land in LA without moving the runways?”

      Brings back fond memories of 8-10 years ago when it was perfectly OK to believe the A380 was simply too big for most airports, as one of the reasons for the programs imminent demise 🙂

      “There’s about a dozen cities in the world that can truly accommodate this big of an airplane,” says Richard Aboulafia

      • not really an untrue statement at the time.

        most airports that are “A380 capable” today required at least some upgrades to get there and to actually serve them efficiently definitely required Gate updates.

        if you think that isn’t a siginifican cost factor, then you haven’t paid attention to the current largest efficiency constraint on narrowbodies (fitting in the gates) and the reason why the 777x had to go to folding wingtips.

      • I think the A380 and LAX go hand in hand. No room for the airport to park enough A350 and 777 for the capacity needed. A similar situation as Midway for Southwest. Two choices, build greenfield airports(very expensive and unlikely), or tailor aircraft to the runway and gate limitations with folding wingtips.

      • ICAO Code E (65m wingspan) and Code F (80m wingspan) require that the minimum distance between the taxiway centre-line and runway centre-line are 182.5m and 190m, respectively. A 95m wingspan would not require more than 197.5m, at the maximum, of separation between the taxiway centre-line and runway-centre line.

        FWIW, the Al Maktoum Dubai World Central International Airport (DWC) will eventually have five parallel runways, 4.9 kilometres (3 mi) in length, each separated by a distance of 800 metres (2,600 ft).

    • Why do you want to spend the money to design new wings? The original wings were designed for at least one stretch, if not two.

      • Obviously, the A380’s wing was originally designed for an A380-900 and thus acceptable for a A380-1000. However, the aspect ratio of this wing is relatively low for a new design, much lower than for the 787’s or A350’s wing.

      • Can they put 3 to 5 m folding wingtips on the existing wing? Maybe a few percentage in efficiency can be gained for a reasonable cost. A new wing is a bridge too far.

  9. If Airbus can hang in there for a few more years, a stretched A380 for 2023-2025 and beyond with say 650-700 passengers in economy plus some premium seating, all-new bypass 15 engines, composite and advanced aero wing improvements, ~10% reduction in cruise speed, and some weight reduction will be by far the world’s least polluting intercontinental airplane — in terms of kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per passenger mile — or metric tons per trip.

    That will be a really big deal, a crucial consideration for airlines everywhere. Its market would grow. It would be flying routes in and out of the USA too. That A380 could also be the most economical intercontinental airplane , if there is a price on carbon in the 2020’s and beyond — say $25 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions.

    Leeham, you could generate some numbers to investigate my points.

  10. The investment in the A380 program is to large to just left it go and quit now. The program really put Airbus on the map and is important from a marketing perspective, even though it probably never will be an financial goldmine.

    I don’t think that 317 A380s sold is a total failure and not comparable to the A340 program. We have to remember that one A380 is a 777-300 on the main deck and a 787-9 on the upper deck when comparing numbers.

    I think the best way forward for Airbus is to do a quick and simple neo-fication. Don’t do to much and don’t wait to long. Just use the XWB engine as it is more efficient and has as a larger fan. This is not the time to develop a new engine with all the other associated risk and cost. The XWB engine is well known and the existing pylons can probably take the slight increase in weight. The A380 has already been test flying with the XWB engine as part of the A350 engine certification. Add a A350 style winglets, consider a slight stretch as well, not to much. The A380 is large enough but a more seats is needed to improve the cost per seat.

    Airbus should also secure significant firm orders before proceeding and initiating the a380neo program. if they move quickly the existing A380 backlog a large enough to bridge the gap until the neo ramp up. At current production level of approximately 33 frames per year the backlog is 5 years at full production, so the A380neo should be EIS in 2020 at the latest.

    • A340 was an A330 derivative and did not cost that much or loose that much

      A380 did.

      And the NEO and 900 would have been launched by now if they had the commitments. the fact they have not tells you they don’t

      Mfgs always take to customers and get their take and indications of what they would buy and when.

      this would be a case of build it and hope they will come. Not all aircraft are a field of dreams.

  11. A380 needs a new wing. Besides 747, every other planned or production airliner has >9 aspect ratio, and by 2020 all but A330 will be CFRP.

    Being the only airliner with metal wing with ’70’s AR is too much to give up. Add a wing area (not span) built for -900 stretch and you have three degrees of design/tech disadvantage. This added drag reverberates through size/weight of engines, empennage, and landing gear. That’s what is dragging A380 down – lack of a big enough efficiency advantage over smaller twins.

    Airbus could either:
    (1) Do a lighter, smaller 80m CFRP wing with winglets or
    (2) Do still-lighter, smaller 90m CFRP folding wing

    …depending on airport viability. I believe Airbus can do with Code F what Boeing is doing with E, so (2) is the better option. But either would fix the A380.

  12. Airbus won’t do a new wing or other radical mods. There is no need and no competition. The 777-9x will be smaller then a A389, maindeck.

    • “No need?”

      The plane isn’t selling, hasn’t found a new customer in 3 years. As computed by Leeham, NEO improves its CASM by ~5-6%. And that’s with a very small price premium over CEO.

      A 5-6% better NEO is worth off against 777-9 than CEO was against 77W.
      I’m talking relative CASM between the “rounds” of this fight.
      The A380 lost the first round, badly. Never made even production profit.
      How is a second round going to be better?

      No, there is a definite need. A380 can only justify 50% greater capacity risk with ~20% lower CASM. NEO doesn’t get you there, NWO could.

      • If you move to A389, you have 80+% higher capacity risk. I doubt there’s much market for that size even if you have 20% CASM advantage, which I don’t an A389 would get.

        Folks often look only at fuselage proportions for stretch. Wing proportions matter too. That wing is way too short for a massive stretch, even though it’s big enough, area-wise, to lift it off the ground. In cruise your induced drag will be enormous.

        *worth off = worse off. First time I’ve lisped in print.

      • “As computed by Leeham, NEO improves its CASM by ~5-6%. ”

        – Interesting. Can I have the link to that resource please? Thanks in advance.

          • Note that Airwaysnews came to a similar conclusion about the NEO’s CASM delta – 5%, @ $3 gas.


            And note that, in Airways’ analysis, NEO only costs 6% more than CEO. How Airbus closes a business case for $3bn investment while making only $10mil per 30 frames upside I don’t know.

            The fact that Leeham and Airways think it’s a good call causes me to question the business acumen of the aviation analyst community. Luckily Aboulafia has it right.

            That said, I do think there’s a business case for a 30% more fuel-efficient A380, if it can be done for $5bn. I’d expect Airbus to vomit at the thought of putting $5bn more into this program, so it’ll take a while to get there. At some point, they’ll face the quandary of serious investment or program death. Then there’s a good chance we see a new wing.

      • “NEO improves its CASM by ~5-6%”

        – 8-10% better engines
        – aerodynamic improvements (wing tips etc.) a few percent
        – 11 abreast at 18 inch
        – weight savings
        – smart lav’s / galleys

        5-6%? Some one should review his/her assumptions 😀

  13. Round and round we go. The bigger picture that many of us are not seeing is that while a NEO sounds good, it’s barely good, on the merit of just an engine swap. Now mind you. The A380 is a great plane, it’s big yada yada, it has showers yada yada and its super quiet. But it not selling in its current form. We’ve seen stories come and go. TK wants to lease the A380. Crickets. JL has a couple of new customers to announce or that are in the pipeline. Nothing. If carriers are apprehensive about buying because they are not sure that they can fill all of the seats, how’s filling 650 seats everyday going to go down?? Based on the psychology of what we have seen and what others predict, this plane is going to need more than an engine swap to achieve more orders. There IS a need to tweak things on it and there IS competition and it’s the 777 family.

    In the ten years that the A380 has been flying, it is still flying at a loss per plane produced. Why would I commit more money to an endeavor that has yet to make me money but HAS the potential to do so??

    While the 317 frames are not a total failure, it’s certainly not an achievement of any kind. Airbus had lofty goals for this plane with little to no market research to quantify such an investment in an aircraft that up to now has just taken more than it has given, besides people going out of their way to fly on it.

    It’s obvious that the A380 needs help but how much Airbus is willing to commit it, how much RR wants to commit to it and how much EK can 1) invest and 2) wait is another. I agree that Airbus will have to really face the music with the 779/8 and think about its next move because if it can’t the market share in the widebody segment could tip to a 60/40 split.

    While the A350-1100, whatever it ends up being, will need to NOT compete with what we now see but to surpass it. Ie 77W –> A35J. While I don’t have all the answers, you can almost see that this will be the last derivative of the 777 family and that the future will be a spin off from the 787 but with the size of a 777. Basically the 778 and 779 but cloaked in CRP rather than Aluminum alloy etc.

  14. Boeing needs to enhance the 777X by moving forward to a slightly wider carbon 787 technology fuselage.

    It will make feasible industry standard 10 abreast seating for long flights and make it competitive with the A350-1000 and A380 on a apple to apple seating CASM basis.

    Alternatively they can stretch to 777-10X at 9 abreast, to end up around 400 seats with acceptable long haul seating.

    Deleting the wing folding mechanisms and use of composites and new FEM based optimizations, Boeing will be able to shave maybe 10 tonnes of the 777X’s high empty weight!

    Let’s discuss!

  15. – TAP Wants To Get rid of Expensive A350s and get A330neos and A321LRs For Future Long-Haul Flying –

    Interesting development. I have the feeling the A321 CEO/ NEO/LR is becoming a game changer. Not because of revolutionary technology, it’s evolutionary & mature.

    The combination of payload-range, cargo capability, quietness and efficiency is new and opening up new opportunities for existing but also new operators. And Airbus can push out one daily in the near future.

    Also airlines replacing 767/A330/787 on medium flights, increasing frequencies. What if Jetblue orders 50 A321LR’s? or United, Iran Air, BA ? American will have 300 A321s in few years.

    A Boeing MoM seems too late, even when launched today.

  16. The LR is a good aircraft but I would caution to say that its a game changer. To Say so would imply that it is doing something that completely changes the landscape of something, almost entirely. At best the A321 NEO and LR replace what the 757 has been doing for the last ____ years, with a sprinkle or two for added routes that carriers can now entertain with the added range and efficiency.

    The hypotheticals are just those and almost have zero merit. What if Jet doesn’t order 50 LR’s? Then what?? We have already tackled the fact that UA is not keen to the LR since the seating on the LR would mean that they would be leaving revenue behind. (They are also on record saying that the NEO has issues, whatever those are) UA, AA and DL and have 57’s that seat 175-199 pax. I’m not sure of the seating spec of the LR but if a large carrier has to play shell games with fuel tanks and recalculate weight and numbers because the overhead bins are full so the overflow has to be added to the belly, in my mind it is too much of a headache.

    When we know more about what Boeing is going to propose under the new CEO at the helm, then we can say that Boeing is late to the party, Right now it premature.

    • Rotate for the next 5-7 years Airbus will probably pump 1500-2000 into the marketplace. Also transatlantic, at 30-40% lower operating costs than a 757.
      The operating cost-capability-range combination is new to the market. Airlines that had no chance on 5-6 hour flights will introduce them, pushing aside other types / carriers.

      At this stage / the next 5 years, Boeing can only watch & say it aint so. Until they have a solution.

  17. I’m not doubting the efficiency numbers. I however doubt that airlines are going to willfully leave revenue at the gate to gain_____% better seat mile costs. Especially when some of it will be lost on the westerly trip back.

    • Atlantic is only a small part of the business compared to EMEA, transcon and intra Asia. That’s were the 2000 A321s currently ordered go.

      The A321 can do things the 757 cannot. Offer unmatched fuel efficiency, US and China FAL’s, night operation low noise levels, 18 inch seats 6 abreast, LD3 & pallet capability, A320 fleet commonality, competitive worldwide MRO services, crew availability and mass production pricing.

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