Airbus A380 Customer Qantas Doesn’t Want the Last Eight on Order

Images of Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia Aircraft Ahead of Full-Year Results

An Airbus SAS A380 aircraft operated by Qantas Airways Ltd. takes off at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Qantas, Australia's largest carrier, is scheduled to report full-year results on Aug. 28. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

  • Qantas CEO says 12 planes in fleet are already sufficient
  • Airline joins Virgin Atlantic in holding off on taking plane

Qantas Airways Ltd. said it doesn’t want the remaining eight A380s it still has on order because the dozen it operates now are sufficient to meet demand, further dimming future sales prospects for the largest passenger plane that’s struggled to find buyers.

“Our intention is that we’re not taking those aircraft,” Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said Friday at an airline conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Qantas was one of the original operators of the A380 and looked to become one of the biggest buyers of the double-decker built by Airbus Group SE. Joyce has pushed back delivery of the remaining planes for about two years now, joining customers including Virgin Atlantic Ltd. that haven’t outright canceled orders but are unlikely ever to have them fulfilled. That leaves Emirates of Dubai as the one committed buyer of the aircraft.

The A380 generally has about 525 seats, though Qantas’s carry 484. The airline uses the model on routes from Sydney or Melbourne to London via Dubai and to Hong Kong, Dallas and Los Angeles. The carrier made global headlines in late 2010, when an A380 en route from Singapore suffered a mid-flight engine explosion that ripped through the wing, though the aircraft returned to the airport safely and nobody was hurt. Since its first A380 went into service in 2008, Qantas has shifted its strategy to focus on direct routes between smaller cities rather than larger hubs with more passengers to fill bigger planes.

“We believe there’s a network for 12 that’s very good and works very well,” Joyce said. “We struggle with a network for the next eight.”

Airbus announced a drastic cut in production last month of the flagship superjumbo, saying it would build about 12 of the planes annually compared with close to 30 in recent years. The number of aircraft Joyce said he needs is in line with most other operators of the model, including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and British Airways. Emirates’ orders account for close to 50 percent of the model’s backlog.

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