Emirates' A380 deliveries safe from delay

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus yesterday announced a fresh round of delays to the delivery schedule of the Airbus A380, which is expected to affect deliveries this year and the next.

Emirates, which is the biggest customer for the A380 with 58 aircraft on order, is not concerned at this point, according to its President, Tim Clark.

"Our Wave 1 aircraft are safe and we are going to get our first four A380 aircraft as originally scheduled, by the end of this year with the fifth one expected in March next year. So we are not really concerned at this point," he told Emirates Business, adding that the first A380 would arrive this summer.

"We are due to receive another eight A380s between April 2009 and March 2010, one or two of which may get pushed back by a couple of months," he said.

"Most aircraft earmarked for delivery in 2008 have already flown," added Airbus in a statement. "Seventeen aircraft are in various stages of production, mainly in the wiring installation and system testing phases."

Deliveries of the 525-seater double-deck plane is already running about 18 months behind schedule following technical problems with the wiring of the aircraft.

Airbus yesterday said it has cut down its A380 deliveries to 12 this year instead of 13 as previously planned, and 21 deliveries in 2009 against the planned 25. These were to be followed by about 45 annually from 2010.

"Airbus has completed the A380 programme review. Details about the new plan and the further ramp-up and delivery slots in 2010 and the following years will be discussed with customers in the coming weeks," Airbus said in the statement.

"The review has also shown that the steep ramp-up planned in 2006 is not fully achievable.

"The review assessed the programme status at the critical juncture of transitioning from low rate 'individual' production, so-called Wave 1, to the full serial design and manufacturing process, called Wave 2."

Asked if customer airlines were seeking compensation, an Airbus spokesperson told Emirates Business: "It is too early to talk about that. The next step is to work out with airlines an optimised delivery schedule."

United States-based aviation analyst, Addison Schonland from Innovation Analysis Group, on the other hand said: "Emirates will no doubt come cap in hand, and Airbus will have to dream up some compensation."

He said despite a fresh delay, there would be no cancellations. "No airline will cancel now as the deliveries are getting closer. Passenger reaction to the plane has been very good.

"The spike in fuel prices makes airlines reluctant to make sweeping changes. Indeed, the A380 is more fuel efficient than any flying Boeing 747. So, we do not expect to see any cancellations," said Schonland.

Another Middle East customer, Etihad Airways with four superjumbos on order, while confirming having received a letter from Airbus informing of further delays to the A380 delivery, said its plans would not be impacted. "Etihad is due to take delivery of its first A380 aircraft in 2013 and is not expecting the delay to have any impact on its scheduled deliveries or operations," said Iain Burns, Etihad's vice-president for corporate communications.

Qatar Airways' chief executive, Akbar Al Baker was not available for comments. However, he said last week that the airline is considering ordering additional A380s, with five superjumbos on order at present – all expected to come in between 2013 and 2014.

"What seems clear is that the deliveries are being slowed in order to get the assembly team trained on the Wave 2 planes. This slowing means delivery delays between 75 and 90 days. This is simply not catastrophic – though after two years' worth of delays, it vexes everyone's patience," said Schonland.

Meanwhile, EADS, the parent company of Airbus, is due to release its first-quarter earnings report today.