Chop-Shop: A330 / A350-800 / A380

  • A350-800 Order Book Dwindles
  • A380 Backlog No Better With 168* Units
  • Gulf Air Swaps 20x A330-300s For A320ceo/neo’s
  • 787 Production Ramp Up / Qatar Airways 787 In Three Minutes

Poised to be the second member of the family to enter service, the A350-800 now has a backlog of just 112 units. Not much more than the poor selling A350-1000.

It seems more likely than not this model will not see the light of day. While the controversial ETS scheme suspension may well pave the way for A330s to be delivered to Chinese airlines, Gulf Air’s decision to swap A330-300s for A320s vacates more production slots that Airbus will have to fill – both quickly and with weak pricing.

Its bigger Arab rival, Qatar Airways however, took delivery of its first 787-8 earlier today. Here’s a great video of its assembly in three minutes (click).

While Gulf Air may still take between 12-16 787-8s as part of its ongoing restructuring, the loss of 20 A330s will come as a big blow to Airbus.

The vacated production slots, some of which were marked for 2013, means that unless Airbus can find customers to take up the slack or bring forward their deliveries, they could well be producing white tail jets that sit around doing nothing.

The A330 is hardly a paragon for revenue when values are falling on the lease market as a result of its growing market obsolescence and the introduction into service of the 787, so this lost revenue for Airbus, at a time when A350XWB production and inventory costs are spiralling out of control will be a bitter pill to swallow. What makes it doubly worse for Airbus is that Gulf Air was also believed to have had the option to buy a further 20 A330-300s. No more.

What makes it worse is that the substituted A320s Gulf Air has opted for are even worse financially for Airbus. They simply do not command the same lease rate or residual premiums seen on the Next Generation 737.

Even the order swap by Afriqiyah Airways for A350-900s casts an ugly spell on the fate of the shrunken A350-800. Qatar Airways has already threatened to cull A350 orders if Airbus decides to nix that program, but the reality is that the A350-800 was a poorly conceived airplane that never really stood a chance. With Airbus quietly dropping in a revised EIS date of “H2, 2014” for the A350-900 in its earnings release last week that everyone in the media world overlooked, that airplane is edging ever closer to my oft-stated position that it will not enter service until well into 2015, if not beyond that, and by extension, the A350-1000 will continue to slide beyond its unachievable target of “2017”….

And then finally, the perennial loss making A380 – the biggest industrial disaster ever known to mankind.

The backlog now is just 168 with no other variant in the “family”. And with no permanent fix available to the cracked wing ribs until the middle of 2014, Airbus will be keen to play down customer deferrals such as those seen by Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, who refuse to take delivery of any “broken winged” A380s until a solution is firmly integrated into the production system. Even the 2014 date looks dubious given the sparse-to-nil information that Airbus has furnished publicly. If rumours are right, then it’s because the fix that Airbus had hoped to finalise just isn’t good enough.

Then there are the cancellations-in-waiting. Orders from grounded Kingfisher Airlines and HNA Group total 15 units. In reality, the A380 backlog is closer to about 150 units, give or take a few.

And at the other end of the rivalry, Boeing is picking up the pace with the 787.

Sure, they took flak, deserved and undeserved for the way the 787 came into the world after over three years of delays, but from a production maturity standpoint, things are improving with minimal fuss.

In some ways, no news about the 787 production is indeed, good news – if only because the rate hike to 10 per month by the end of next year looks like it will be achieved. Even if Boeing misses that goal, it wont be a disaster.

Production maturity ranks supreme and that is what will drive profitability into the 787 program – unlike that seen on the A380, which after a half decade in service, gets further away from breaking even as each year passes.

8 Replies to “Chop-Shop: A330 / A350-800 / A380”

  1. As I recall, you have been a lone voice warning about the A350-800. Now it looks like you were correct. IMO, the key orders for the -800 are from QR and US. Either one cancels or converts to the -900 then this thing is a gonner. Who would take delivery of something that’s bound to have little residual value? Of course, Airbus guaranteed the market resale value of Iberia’s A346s, but that was back in the heady days when that aircraft was actually thought to be competitive with the 777W. (BTW, I wonder what Airbus gave LH?)

    Speaking of US Airways, they are one of the largest airbus customers in the world. If American Airlines comes out of bankruptcy intact and US Airways does not merge, there’s trouble ahead for them as well. I doubt they’d upscale their -800s to -900s; simply too much plane for their current route system.

  2. You are witnessing the dissolution of the A350 program; knee-jerk response to B787. With -800 slowly disappearing and a future crippled -1000 waiting in the wing, what will constitute Airbus future widebody offering; 350-900 (314P) & 380-800 (525P)? What else can Airbus offer? The 380-900 is going in the wrong direction; larger. The A330 family is going the way of its older sibling A340 via B787 family.
    Boeing will have a growing family that will cover the 200 – 400 markets.
    787 family: -8,-9 & -10
    777 family: -200LR, -300ER, -8X & -9X
    747 family: -8I
    The freight markets are essentially Boeing’s now and will be going into the future will no end in sight.
    Does anybody see orthewise?

    1. IMHO, the A359XWB will be an excellent plane and will continue to sell in great numbers (as it has been). The -1000XWB will certainly sell enough frames as it will still probably be able to fly most of the B77W routes carriers fly at a better CASM than the B77W. I’m not so sure about the B778X either.

  3. I can see QR cutting their A358XWB order, maybe even their A330 order, but their A380 order?

    @61a63a18f639b8d89b301d33d74f1586:disqus : Many of us posted years ago (no typo) on various forums that the A358XWB might go the way of the B783. While it hasn’t happened yet, its looking more and more likely, especially if say QR changes it to the A359 or some other model.

  4. I think it’s pretty obvious that either the A350-800 or -1000 will need to be axed, and given the choice, I’d presume Airbus would cancel the -800 and focus on improving the competitiveness of the -1000 (if that’s even possible).

  5. Another belief that circulates in the industry is that Virgin Atlantic will cancel their A380 order. The airline has recently revealed that the market place has changed significantly (for the worse, arguably), since Virgin first placed their order. Also the airline is focused on replacing their large A340-600 and 747-400 fleet with the latest twin-engine offerings from either Boeing or Airbus or both.

    And, if reports are accurate, then Thai is also finding that the A380 is no longer suitable for today’s market environment.

  6. This website has mentioned several times in the past that the A350-800 will be axed, and today we’re seeing strong signs that it will be. Qatar has finally converted their -800 orders to the -900 variant, and now that Airbus has the most important -800 customer off the program and onto the -900, they’re going to cancel it…watch this space. Qatar is already eyeing the 787-9 and -10X…it’s a big master plan that’s coming together. Good night A350-800.