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Airbus expects A380 sales to rise in China. First A380 to China Southern in Aug-2011

8-Apr-2011

Airbus stated it expects to sell more A380 aircraft in China in the coming years, aided by strong air travel demand in the fast-growing market. Only one Chinese carrier – China Southern Airlines - has ordered the A380 so far, but Airbus is confident more carriers in the mainland will start to warm to the aircraft soon.

"We're pretty confident in the coming years we'll sell more A380s in China. We certainly don't have to wait 10 years" for demand for A380s to pick up in China, Airbus China President Laurence Barron said. "Chinese airlines historically have not been very enthusiastic about buying a product early in the programme. It will take some time for the Chinese airlines to really understand what a great aircraft it is," Mr Barron said of the A380.

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer, Customer, John Leahy, expressed disappointment last month when Air China announced plans to acquire five B747-8s, stating that he had “hoped they would have taken a closer look at the A380". See related article: Airbus enjoys more A380 success in 2011, but some challenges too - Very Large Aircraft update 1

HNA Group failed to make an A380 order as rumoured at the Asian Aerospace Exhibition in Hong Kong in Mar-2011. There had been speculation that HNA might place an order, but Tan Xiangdong, a board director of HNA Group and executive chairman of HNA Industrial Holding Co Ltd said the two sides could not reach an agreement over price. Airbus has not commented on the matter. 

Mr Barron, meanwhile, said he has witnessed an impact on airlines from the introduction of high-speed rail in China. A high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai is set to commence operations in Jun-2011, which Airbus expects could place pressure on the nation's airlines to expand their international routes, boding well for A380 sales.

China Southern A380 to be configured with 506 seats; First delivery in Aug-2011

China Southern Airlines has ordered five A380s, the first of which is slated by Airbus to be delivered in 3Q2010. The carrier has said it expects to take delivery of its first A380 in Aug-2011.

China Southern’s first A380 made its maiden flight from Toulouse to Hamburg on 03-Mar-2011 for cabin installation and painting in Mar-2011. The carrier will deploy the A380 from Beijing, scheduling the first A380 to launch Beijing–Paris CDG service. The carrier’s branding manager stated the carrier is also seeking to launch service between Guangzhou and London and could operate A380 equipment on the sector.

The first of five Airbus A380s for China Southern made its maiden flight in early Mar-2011

The configuration for China Southern’s forthcoming A380 aircraft has been leaked on micro-blogging site Sina Weibo, showing a three-class layout with 506 seats and First Class on the lower deck. Configuration details are reportedly as follows:

  • First: In a 1-2-1 layout. Located on the lower deck;
  • Business: Situated on the upper deck with a 1-2-1 configuration;
  • Economy: Configured as 3-4-3, mostly on the main deck, while the upper deck location has 10 rows towards the rear (2-4-2 on Upper deck).

This would place China Southern’s A380 on the more densely configured end of the spectrum after Air France (538 seats in its three-class layout) and Lufthansa (526 seats in three-class layout). Air Austral has also floated an 840-seat configuration and Emirates’ medium range A380 configuration would also have more seats.

Known A380 configurations  

Airline

First

Business

Premium economy

Economy

Total

Korean Air

12

94

0

301

407

Skymark

-

-

-

-

400-450

Qantas

14

72

32

332

450

Singapore Airlines

12

60

0

399

471

Emirates (Ultra long range)

14

76

0

399

489

China Southern

8

70

0

428

506

Malaysia Airlines

8

54

26

420

508

Emirates (Long range)

14

76

-

427

517

Lufthansa

8

98

 0

420

526

Air France

9

80

-

343

538

Emirates (Medium range)

-

-

-

-

600

Air Austral

0

0

0

“Around 840”

“Around 840”

More A380 competition in and around China

A380 operations to China are rapidly ramping up. Emirates became the first carrier to launch scheduled A380 services to China in Aug-2010 with Dubai-Beijing service. Lufthansa, which commenced A380 services from Frankfurt to Beijing in Sep-2010, stated it would increase frequency from three times weekly to daily from 10-Apr-2011. B747-400 equipment is used on the other four weekly frequencies at present.

Korean Air has meanwhile announced it will become the first airline to offer a flying duty free shop when its first of ten A380s enters service on 10-Jun-2011. The stall has been designed and manufactured for Korean Air by AIM Aviation and will replace 13 seats on the A380. The carrier expects to make up for the lost revenue in duty free sales.

Korean Air's A380s will feature a 407-seat layout with 12 first class seats, 94 in Prestige business class and 301 in economy class making it the most spacious configuration announced to-date.

Delivery of the first A380 to Korean Air is scheduled for 2Q2011, making it the sixth operator of the aircraft. Korean Air will initially operate the A380 on services from Seoul to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok, followed later in the year by trans-Pacific services to New York and Los Angeles. 

Airbus has 188 orders for A380s, according to Ascend, across 14 countries, with over one third bound for Asia Pacific carriers. The manufacturer has booked ten A380 orders this year - all from North Asia. Asiana Airlines has ordered six and Japanese carrier Skymark Airlines four. The A380 will certainly gain additional profile in the region this year as high profile initial deliveries are made to Korean Air and China Southern in coming months. Whether this will translate into new orders remains to be seen, but Airbus will be hoping for a banner year for its flagship aircraft.

A380 orders by country: As at 08-Apr-2011

Country

Orders

United Arab Emirates

85

United Kingdom

18

South Korea

16

Australia

11

Germany

9

France

8

Singapore

8

Malaysia

6

Thailand

6

China

5

India

5

Qatar

5

Japan

4

Reunion

2

Total

188


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