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A380 grounding cost US$30m a month - Emirates president

Airline's Tim Clark says saga had a huge effect on firm's financials.
NEWS, Aviation

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The grounding of Airbus A380 superjumbos for repairs earlier this year cost Dubai’s Emirates Airline around US$30m a month, the carrier’s president said in an interview published on Wednesday.

“The worst thing for us is that of the 21 [A380s] that we are flying today, six were grounded for quite a long time. And that completely knocked out our A380 programme. Our early estimates with regards to loss of profit were US$30m a month then,” Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, was quoted as saying in an interview with Dubai’s Gulf News.

“So for January, February, March, about US$90m is where we were down and that impacted the bottomline of our financial results last year. But that wasn’t declared in our financial statement. Overall, we should have had 23 A380s flying today, but they are not. So we are dealing with that,” he added.

On Tuesday, commercial plane maker Airbus said airlines operating its A380 superjumbo will need to ground all of their aircraft for up to eight weeks while they undergo repair work to address wing cracks.

Airbus, which will start the repairs later this year, said the double-decker aircraft are safe to fly and will not need to be taken out of service immediately.

The Toulouse-based company plans to introduce a permanent solution to the flaw this year and start delivering aircraft without the defect by January 2014.

Emirates, the biggest customer so far for the Airbus A380, said it was unhappy about having to ground its fleet, but admitted it had little choice.

“Of course we are not happy, but we have to live with it,” Clark said in a Bloomberg interview Monday.

“There was an error in design and specification of metals and plastic composite to the aircraft. They are making detailed studies of what happened and what they have to do,” he added.

Emirates engineers in January discovered minor wing cracks on the wings of a “limited number” of A380s, although these did not effect their safe running, Airbus said. The Dubai-based airline has carried more than 7m passengers since the superjumbo was introduced to its fleet in August 2008.

Emirates has ordered 90 A380s in total, and has already taken delivery of 21. It has 14 more scheduled for delivery and all will require the eight-week removal from service, John Leahy, Airbus's COO, told Bloomberg.

Clark told Gulf News he could is aiming to increase Emirates’ fleet size to 210 aircraft by 2015 and increase the number of destinations it flies to from 124 to 145 within the same period.

Despite the wing issues, he has not ruled out increasing its order of A380s to 120 aircraft, but he conceded at present there is not enough space at Dubai International Airport to accommodate the extra planes.

As international aviation bosses gather in Beijing for the International Air Transport Association’s World Air Transport Summit, IAG boss Willie Walsh told Bloomberg he was afraid of a rumoured link up between the Dubai carrier and Australia’s Qantas Airways.

Walsh said the Qantas talks with Emirates make “commercial sense” and it is a strategy he would pursue if he was at the helm of the Sydney-based carrier.
 

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