Asia

Airbus looks for that elusive India customer for its superjumbos

Airbus

By Anurag Kotoky (Bloomberg). Airbus Group, whose A380 jet doesn’t have a single customer in India, is still looking for a carrier in the South Asian country to buy the superjumbos, betting infrastructure growth in the world’s fastest growing air travel market will fail to keep pace with the rise in traffic.

Airlines in India will need more of the bigger planes to carry the growing number of passengers as airports get congested with smaller aircraft, Joost van der Heijden, head of marketing for Airbus in Asia, said in an interview on the sidelines of an air show in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. The now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines was the only carrier to place an order for A380s, five of them, which was later scrapped.

“In India, air traffic will grow fivefold in the coming 20 years,” van der Heijden said. “Of course, infrastructure will develop. But it will never be able to keep up with that.”

The Toulouse, France-based manufacturer of the A380, which entered service in 2007, is seeking to drum up orders for the jet it is struggling to sell amid demands by leading buyer Emirates Airline for a life-extending upgrade. The company got a much-needed boost in January when Iran agreed to buy 12 A380s, weeks after Japan’s All Nippon Airways agreed to buy three of them.

New Dawn

Hailed as the star of 21st century aviation, Airbus said the A380 is certified to carry as many as 853 passengers and would end the monopoly arch-rival Boeing held on jumbo jets for decades. It was marketed as the new dawn of travel, pairing ultra-luxury with mass transport, while alleviating the strain on congested airports.

“You have big population centers, you have big destinations with very high volume traffic flows,” van der Heijden said, “So naturally, a large aircraft as the A380 is very important to accommodate that high volume traffic as well as bring the lowest possible seat-mile-cost for airlines to be very competitive.”

He declined to say how many superjumbos Airbus expects to sell in India, or who the prospective customers may be.

Kingfisher sank under debt as costs it incurred to redefine luxury travel weren’t covered by what it earned in the highly cost-conscious Indian market. Airbus removed that order from its books in 2014, about two years after Kingfisher flew its last service.

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