European aerospace manufacturer Airbus announced on Tuesday its plan to cut back the production-line output of its A380 airliner due to sagging sales.
The France-based multinational company is to reduce its annual production of the large-bodied, double-decker A380 down to 12 units in 2018, in contrast to the 27 units slated for delivery this year.
An Airbus spokesperson said the drop in the A380 production-line output had not happened yet, contrary to information published by French newspaper “Le Figaro” Tuesday morning.
The company’s source said the aircraft’s 2018 production target is set to be officially announced next January.
In an interview with the French daily, A380 Program Director Alain Fluorens said that the drop in the aircraft’s assembly rate “enables us to stagger deliveries while awaiting new orders.”
He also insisted on his belief that the aircraft had a commercial future, regardless of the current situation.
Fluorens added that the A380 “continues having a place within Airbus’ order books. It fits perfectly within the overall increase in airline traffic and airport saturation.”
Last July, the aircraft manufacturer had already announced a drop in the production rate of the airliner – which is capable of transporting 500 passengers, making it the largest aircraft in commercial aviation – after nearly two years with hardly any new orders.
Once this announcement was made public, Airbus CEO Tom Enders said he was confident that the production rate would make a future comeback.
In its forecast for the next 20 years, Airbus estimated that the global demand for large, wide-bodied aircraft with a capacity in excess of 400 seats (such as the A380 or Boeing’s 747-8) will reach 1,500 units.
This forecast was based on the notion that global air traffic doubles every 15 years and the fact that major city airports are going to face saturation issues independently of the progress made in improved Landing and Take-Off (LTO) cycles that enable a higher number of hourly flight operations.
In all, Airbus has 124 A380 units, pending delivery of the 319 units it has sold since the production program began in 2000.
The company has used this reasoning to justify going ahead with the one-unit-a-month assembly rate, even though Airbus hopes to sell a dozen A380s to Iran once an export certificate issue has been cleared.
Until the foreseeable recovery of this market niche, Fluorens said that Airbus plans to work on “optimizing the current aircraft to improve its productivity” with finishing options that enable higher flexibility and freedom in passenger cabin layout, according to the company’s needs.
A new version of the A380 has been discarded, as it would involve an investment of hundreds of millions or even billions of euros, with no guarantee of recouping said outlay within a foreseeable future.