Emirates mulls more Airbus A380s despite delays

AP News
Posted: Nov 11, 2009 8:31 AM

Emirates airline, the biggest buyer of the "superjumbo" Airbus A380, said Wednesday it is considering increasing its order for the double-decker plane despite delays on existing orders.

Speaking ahead of next week's Dubai Air Show, Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum told reporters the Dubai-based carrier is looking to boost its commitment beyond the 58 it has already requested _ the most booked by any airline.

"We are considering that, actually," he said when asked about additional orders. "We're actually looking at the market as very positive for the next few years ... We are always one of the first-movers to take advantage of the market."

A fresh commitment from Emirates could be a boon for Airbus, which along with U.S. rival Boeing Co. has faced a slowdown in aircraft orders as the economic downturn convinces carriers to put off purchases and delay expansion plans.

Fast-growing Emirates last week reported a fiscal first-half profit of nearly $205 million, well over double its earnings for the same period a year earlier.

The state-owned airline, the Middle East's largest, ranks among the world's biggest international airlines, both in terms of people carried and miles flown.

It is the world's leading operator of Boeing's twin-engine, wide-body 777 jet.

For the time being, however, Emirates says it is facing delays with some of the A380s it has already requested. Just five of the planes have been delivered to Emirates so far.

Sheik Ahmed did not provide an exact timeframe or say how many deliveries have been pushed back, though he acknowledged "there is a bit of delay." He said the changes affected deliveries by a matter of months, not years.

The blame for the late deliveries, he said, rested with Airbus, not Emirates.

"Sometimes we are not happy about it because we want the aircraft to be delivered on time," he said.

In a statement attributed to Emirates President Tim Clark, the carrier said it was due to receive three A380s between November and December 2009, but delivery has been pushed back to December and January instead.

The airline has said it plans to receive a total of six additional A380s by the end of March.

Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon declined to discuss details of Emirates' order schedule, saying that "deliveries are agreed with customers."

Airbus has delivered seven of 13 A380s it plans to complete this year, Dubon said. The plane maker has firm orders for 200 of the wide-body aircraft.

Emirates is one of three carriers that operate the A380, along with Singapore Airlines and Qantas.

Air France plans to become the first European operator of the plane when it begins deploying it on the Paris-New York route later this month.