Exclusive: Emirates raps Airbus for A380 comment, dangles huge order

Thu Dec 11, 2014 7:10am EST
 
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By Tim Hepher

(Reuters) - The head of Dubai-based airline Emirates has reacted angrily to a suggestion by Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) that it might stop making its A380 superjumbo airliner, telling Reuters it could double its investment if the planemaker agreed to upgrade the A380 instead.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates, said he had protested to Airbus after its finance director aired the possibility of ending production of the flagship jet due to poor sales.

"I am not particularly happy as you can imagine," Clark said in a telephone interview.

"We are on the hook for this plane. I get pretty miffed when we have put so much at stake."

Harald Wilhelm told analysts on Wednesday Airbus would break even on the A380 through 2018, "if we would do something on the product, or even if we would discontinue the product".

The unusually frank remark reflected an internal debate over the future of the world's largest airliner but is the first time Airbus has publicly contemplated winding down the project - one of several scenarios in a review first reported by Reuters.

Others include slowing production or investing together with Rolls-Royce (RR.L: Quote) in an improved engine, which Clark said would improve fuel consumption by 12 to 15 percent from 2020.

Clark said that if the two companies went ahead with the upgrade Emirates would eventually replace all the 140 superjumbos it has ordered with the newly upgraded version.   Continued...

 
President of Emirates Airlines Tim Clark speaks during a news conference at the Emirates Terminal at Dubai International Airport, February 10, 2013. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh