PLANE-MAKER Airbus anticipates more demand for its A380 jets and is beefing up the maintenance and training services to better serve its customers in the region, said president and chief executive officer of Airbus Fabrice Bregier.
"I am confident that we will have other (A380) customers onboard, including this year," said Mr Bregier in an interview on Wednesday at the Singapore Airshow.
The double-deck A380 first took off in 2005, but more than a decade later, Airbus has only received orders for 319 of the jumbo jets. Gulf carrier Emirates is the largest A380 client so far, with 140 firm orders placed.
Mr Bregier said the A380 programme was "ten to 15 years ahead" of its time. "To be honest, I think my predecessors, when they launched the programme, they expected slightly better commercial performance."
Mr Bregier was, however, upbeat about future orders for the A380 jet, noting that All Nippon Airways has recently placed an order for three of the jets. Singapore Airlines operates 19 A380s, and has five more on order.
Demand for the A380 has increased as skies are growing increasingly crowded while aviation infrastructure is coping to catch up.
The International Air Transport Association announced earlier this month that global passenger traffic for 2015 had grown 6.5 per cent from 2014.
Noting that the market for air transportation doubles in size every ten to 15 years, Mr Bregier said: "How can you imagine that we just double the number of aircraft? It doesn't work."
The A380 can carry about 380 to just over 600 passengers, based on current configurations.
Airbus had earlier forecasted that the Asia-Pacific will require 12,810 new planes valued at US$2 trillion over the next 20 years. This is about 40 per cent of the 32,600 aircraft that will be needed globally in the next two decades.
While no exact figures for the breakdown of regions within Asia-Pacific were given, Mr Bregier on Wednesday estimated that South-east Asia would account for about 15 per cent.
This was a consideration behind Airbus' increasing presence in Singapore and the region and also why it unveiled several initiatives recently to better serve its customers.
Airbus announced on Wednesday the formation of a joint-venture with Singapore Airlines Engineering Company to provide modification and upgrade services.
It also set up the Satair Airbus Singapore Centre in 2014 to serve as a chief spare parts hub for the Asia-Pacific region. "Singapore is unique to us," he said. "This is not to say we don't have partnerships (elsewhere), but not at the level and the depth of what we are doing here."
This has an important signalling effect to Airbus' clients, especially to those who wish to order more A380s.
Mr Bregier said that another reason why carriers were slow to take up on the A380 was because of its complexity in terms of handling and maintenance.
"As we demonstrated here, we are ready to offer complete services," he said. "So we can take care of that, it's not an issue, it's not complex anymore. At the beginning it was a bit chaotic, but now this aircraft is delivering a very good performance."
Separately, Philippines Airlines announced an order on Wednesday for six A350-900s from Airbus, with the option for another six. They will be delivered starting 2018. The carrier will consider non-stop flights from Manila to New York and Europe with these new aircraft.
Also, Airbus signed an agreement to provide flight and maintenance training services to Vietnam's Vietjet in Ho Chi Minh City.
This article was first published on February 18, 2016.
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