The Business Times

Airbus loses order for 840-seat 'flying sardine can' A380s

Published Mon, Apr 11, 2016 · 11:06 PM

[TOULOUSE] Airbus Group SE lost an order for two A380 superjumbos from Indian Ocean carrier Air Austral, which had aimed to fit the planes with the highest-capacity seating layout in the history of civil aviation.

The aircraft, whose planned 840-seat configuration had led them to be widely labeled by the media as "flying sardine cans," were removed from Airbus's order backlog in a monthly update published Monday, confirming a cancellation that had seemed likely after Air Austral repeatedly delayed their delivery.

Based on the island of La Reunion, Air Austral ordered the double-decker A380s in 2009, saying they'd be used for single-class budget flights on the "heavy-traffic route" to Paris. It didn't reveal an exact seating plan - or specify how many galleys and bathrooms the planes would need for their mammoth passenger load.

While the A380 was certificated for a maximum 853 people based on evacuation trials, most airlines operate the model with 450 to 550 seats in three or four classes, with Dubai-based Emirates, the biggest operator, introducing a two-class 615-seat version.

Even with the density that had been planned by Air Austral, the A380 would still have wider seats and wider aisles in economy class than Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner and the planned 777X, Airbus has said.

Airbus's website also showed new orders for two A380 superjumbos, though the identity of the operator wasn't revealed.

Emirates, which has ordered a total of 140 A380s, or 40 per cent of the total, has stepped in to take planes when other buyers have encountered issues in the past, with the Gulf carrier swapping delivery slots with Amedeo after the leasing firm struggled to find operators for the planes.

As of the end of the first quarter, Toulouse, France-based Airbus's overall order tally for 2016 stood at just 10 aircraft, or less than one-tenth of the 122 planes sold by rival Boeing Co through April 5 on a net basis.

The European company won contracts for 14 jets in March but suffered 15 cancellations. As well as the Air Austral A380s, Czech carrier CSA dropped orders for seven A320 narrow-bodies and Taiwan's TransAsia Airways decided not to take six re-engined A320Neos, according to its website.

Airbus delivered 125 aircraft in the first three months, barely 70 per cent of the 176 handed over by Boeing. The US company was the No 1 planemaker for the third year running in 2015, delivering 723 planes versus 629 at Airbus.


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