Emirates to expect further A380 delays



European plane maker Airbus is reviewing the delivery schedule of its flagship A380 superjumbo jet and its most important client Emirates said on Tuesday it had been told to expect new delays.

Airbus chief executive Thomas Enders said he was running "a major review" of the A380 production programme, which has already suffered three delays and generated billion of euros (dollars) in cost overruns.

He told German media, however, he would not "shoot from the hip" to come up with new delivery dates.

Meanwhile, Dubai's Emirates, the largest A380 customer with an order for 58 of the massive aircraft, said it had received a letter from Airbus.

"Yes, Emirates can confirm that it has received the letter from Airbus," an airline spokesman said when asked if it had been informed of the delays. "At present we have nothing more to add."

The Airbus CEO, who is German, made his comments in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and the German press agency DPA.

In an English-language translation sent by Airbus to AFP, Enders was asked if a press report of further delays to A380 deliveries was correct.

"I cannot answer you this question here and now," the Airbus CEO said.

"I said last week that we currently run a major review, the result does not exist so far."

Enders conceded that "our plan to ramp-up production is definitely quite ambitious."

The flagship A380 has been hit by successive problems that have caused total delays of 18 months, slamming Airbus' parent company EADS with an estimated $6 billion (Dh22.08 billion) in cost overruns.

After explaining that Airbus sought to move from "handwork/manual work" to a "real industrial process," Enders said: "We now have to look at this and to see if we indeed manage the production, or if this is not the case, respectively which counteractive measures we have to take."

Cooperation between an Airbus site in the northern German port of Hamburg and the southern French city of Toulouse, where final assembly takes place, has hit snags and 2,000 German employees were now working in Toulouse to sort out the problems, he added.

A report had said on Monday that the double-decker airplane which can carry up to 853 passengers, and which is already in service with Singapore Airlines, could be hit by more delays.

A 2008 schedule of 13 deliveries has almost been reached but the 2009 figure of 25 was impossible, the German weekly Wirtschaftswoche said, quoting an Airbus source.

Enders did not confirm those numbers in the interview but said Emirates and the Australian airline Quantas would get their first A380s this year.

He told clients in Dubai last week that as soon as the review was complete they would have a clear idea of what to plan on for 2008 and 2009.

"This has to be done properly, I will not make a snapshot and shoot figures from the hip," the Airbus statement quoted Enders as saying.

Singapore Airlines's first A380 was delivered 18 months late in October, owing to problems at the French-German group that centered on wiring assemblies handled in Hamburg.

The issues plunged Airbus into an unprecedented crisis and forced it to come up with a broad restructuring programme that includes cutting 10,000 jobs and closing or selling several European factories.

The management of Airbus and its parent, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, has also been overhauled as a result of problems with the A380, another planned passenger jet, the A350 XWB, and a planned military transporter, the A400M.

A total of 193 A380s have been ordered to date by 17 airlines, mainly in the Gulf region, Asia and Europe.

Some analysts have called the gigantic aircraft – which can fit 72 cars on each wing – a 'white elephant,' being too big, too expensive and based on the wrong strategy.

It has a current catalogue price of $327.4 million (Dh1.20 billion), though sector discounts are the norm for major customers.

Arch US rival Boeing had been able to capitalise on the earlier A380 problems as it launched its own next-generation B787 Dreamliner but this project too has been hit by delays caused by the immense complexity of the design and construction process.

Boeing recently insisted that there would be no further delay to the 787. (AFP)