The main sponsor of the A380 is asking Airbus to build a new super jumbo

(CNN) — The A380 super jumbo has many supporters around the world, but no one is as loud and strong as Tim Clark, the president of Emirates, which is the biggest owner of the airline.

The Dubai-based airline has sold half of all A380s produced and has 118 in its fleet, about 80 of which are still flying.

The entire fleet will return to the air in the spring of next year, as a new route that saw the super jumbo put back into service with most of its equipment, after The disease has led many people to think that they are ready for retirement.

“The idea of ​​the A380 is really hard for us to swallow,” Clark told CNN Travel in an interview.

“I laughed to myself, thinking ‘Wait and see.’ We started flying the A380 to Heathrow six times a day in October last year, and we have had no [free] lived on one of them ever since.”

The airline will begin refreshing the interior of nearly 70 of its A380s later this year, adding a new economy class that will slightly reduce passenger capacity from 519 to 484.

Swimming practice

The Emirates A380 is equipped with a shower for first class passengers.

The Emirates A380 is equipped with a shower for first class passengers.

Emirates

The most distinctive feature of Emirates’ super jumbo, however, will continue to be the famous swimming pool, giving first-class passengers the luxury of a full bath at 35,000 feet.

There are two identical suites, in front of the upper deck, and Emirates is the only airline to offer them, after Clark requested them during the final design of the plane, in 2000.

“Airbus came up with something very heavy to put the seats and little room in there, but the idea that you have bathrooms with showers and all the other parts is interesting. ,” he said.

“It’s a problem for us, but these are dead spots that we can’t make money from. I know they’re very popular.”

Convincing Airbus to install them, however, was not easy.

“We designed the tanks and then went to Airbus, a lot of hands were folded at that point,” Clark said.

“But before the launch of the A380, the sales plan showed double sides with aisles of shops, lounges and restaurants, so I said, ‘it’s not trouble for you.’

“Obviously, but because we’re a big customer, they’ve done it. And it’s not worth it to try to increase the water to two levels, to keep it rising, the temperature and everything.

“But we won, they worked with us, and the rest is history.

A new A380?

Emirates' entire A380 fleet will return to the skies by the spring of 2023.

Emirates’ entire A380 fleet will return to the skies by the spring of 2023.

Emirates

Clark has long lamented the idea that neither Airbus nor Boeing plans to build a new plane the size of the A380.

Currently, the largest aircraft offered by the two major manufacturers are the Airbus A350-1000 and the upcoming 777-9, which can seat over 400 people in a standard configuration.

However, take-up of these aircraft has been slow and Clark believes they are too small to replace the A380 in the Emirates fleet.

“The math tells you that you need a large area, much larger than what we have now,” he said.

“The most important thing is the 777-9, whenever it comes to the market, in our configuration [will seat] 364 people versus 484 on the A380s with our new economy. And it’s 519 before, so you go where I came from.”

Clark’s “math” refers to the demand for air travel, which he said was growing at about 4.5% per year before the pandemic.

Assuming that the curve has been reset, it will only take 10 to 15 years to see the demand increase by half.

“Even with so many 787s and A350s flying around the world, I don’t know how you get that growth curve,” Clark said.

“Supply will be depleted, demand will continue to grow, and when prices rise, it is inevitable.

“If you take the A380s out of the picture in the mid-2030s, how do you do that?

“At Heathrow, they cannot allow a third approach. [Amsterdam’s] Schiphol has just reduced the number of landings and takeoffs they allow. So, one wonders, how can this demand be met?”

open fan engine

Clark’s answer is a new plane similar to the A380, if not bigger, with new features such as simpler tools and better engines.

“Is it possible to redesign a new A380? Yes. Is it possible to make the plane lighter? Yes. When they brought this plane to market, the composites were not real [widespread],” Clark said.

“Imagine a composite wing and a composite fuselage.

“So you have a light aircraft, more fuel efficient, that ticks all the boxes for people who are concerned about the environment.”

One of the biggest shortcomings of the A380 is its four engines, which are not suitable for today’s standards and fuel costs. The new version requires the latest engine technology.

Clark said there are “exciting studies” going on in this field, but added that most of the research in the past 20 years has focused on narrow planes.

The “open fan” engine, which is known as a propeller but is more of an undivided fan found in every modern aircraft engine, is one of the most modern types of engines, and can reduce fuel consumption and emissions. like 20%.

It will be tested on an A380 test aircraft.

However, it is not intended for aviation: New aircraft will have to be designed to fit these engines, and at least initially, they will probably be single-aisle aircraft, such as the 737 and with A320.

“We are trying to do everything to make big fans for the big plane as well,” he said.

“If you can get them to do what I think they can do in terms of fuel efficiency and power, then you have the makings of a competitive airplane. or success in business. [twin-engine aircraft] and we see it today, far away.”

The problem with this plan is that as the A380 is not popular with airlines, the latter may not be as large.

“Do I think the airlines will step up and sign up to this program? It’s doubtful at this point,” Clark said.

“On the one hand I really want to look into this, on the other hand I don’t think it’s good that the stakeholders of the ecosystem are involved.

Looking to the future

The Airbus A350-1000 is one of the largest aircraft currently in operation.

The Airbus A350-1000 is one of the largest aircraft currently in operation.

Imago/Zuma print

“The airline industry, of course, is full of conservatives in style, because they’ve lost their shirts – it’s a great time for air travel.

“But now, things are starting to get better, demand is back. So they can think hard about the future.

“Whether they have the will for it, I don’t know. I know we have.”

Geoff Van Klaveren, an aviation analyst and director of consultancy at independent aviation consultancy IBA, agreed with Clark that there was a need for a bigger plane, but it was not easy to find.

“There is definitely room for a replacement Boeing 747, but I don’t think there is enough demand to start a project for a larger aircraft than the A380.

“A very large plane is the key to Emirates’ business, because 70% of their passengers are connected to other airlines, but I don’t think Airbus or Boeing will build one for them,” he said, adding that the result was a disaster. In fact, the A350 and the 777 have more variants.

However, Clark will not be removed.

“I have spoken to Airbus more than once,” he said. “I think they’re starting to think a little bit, but right now they’re focusing on their planes and the A350 line.

“I think people like it [Airbus CEO] Guillaume Faury really wants to see something like this and see what I can call a commercial advantage for it.

“But he’s very technical and only does what his engineers and technology allow him to do.”

Looking at the post-pandemic travel chaos that is disrupting flights, endless security lines and piles of lost luggage, Clark doesn’t care.

“I think you’ll see this continue into the summer of next year,” he said.

“We are not out of the woods in terms of thinking. And as markets like China, Japan and Korea open up, they will increase the risk, unless people like Heathrow, Frankfurt and Amsterdam to join together and begin to have. people to a place.”

The manager of Emirates said that he was surprised by the resilience of the traveling public to endure all this, but they have to be patient for a long time.

“I see strong demand for next year,” he said. “This is different, but my gut is telling me that the airline industry will be fine in a year’s time and things will slow down when we get back to balance — the middle of next year, or the end of next year.”

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