The Airbus A380 superjumbo is six months behind its delivery schedule due to production problems, a situation which may have huge financial consequences.
Airbus may have popped its corks too early as the A380 hits delays
Airbus said Wednesday it was up to six months behind schedule in delivering its new superjumbo A380 aircraft to airlines due to production problems, a delay that could entail financial penalties.
The European aircraft maker said that A380 deliveries to customers would be pushed back by two to six months after Australia's Qantas Airways announced its order of 12 A380s has been delayed for at least six months.
Qantas head Geoff Dixon said that the first of the 12 superjumbo aircraft ordered by the airline had been delayed from October 2006 to April 2007, and said that his company would seek damages in accordance with terms in its contract.
Airbus declined to comment on financial penalty clauses in its contracts.
Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht told AFP that the airliners would be delivered with a delay of "two to six months depending on the case".
Customers wait on multi-million jumbo
"We are in the process of reviewing the timetable. We are informing all of our customers," she added. Airbus has taken 144 orders and 10 options from 15 airlines at a catalogue price of 213.8-232.5 million euros ($263-286 million) each.
The aircraft, the world's biggest airliner, with capacity for 550 to 840 passengers, successfully made its maiden test flight on April 27.
Shortly after the first flight, Airbus warned Singapore Airlines, the first carrier scheduled for A380 deliveries, that they had been pushed back to the second half of 2006 from the first half. Singapore Airlines has ordered 10 A380s with an option for another 15.
Airbus said Wednesday the delays were due to production problems linked to the cabin fittings demanded by the different clients. "The first 15 planes to produce are completely different, one from another," an Airbus spokesman said.
A source close to Airbus suppliers said: "The interior fittings are posing some problems, notably the installation of new entertainment systems."
Airline expansion plans on hold
Emirates Airlines chief executive Tim Clark said that any delay of more than six months in the delivery schedule for the Airbus A380 would be a "serious issue". Emirates is the biggest customer of the A380 with an order for 43 planes, and has been expecting to take delivery of the aircraft in October 2006.
In a statement received in Paris, Clark said he expected to receive word on the delivery schedule in the next one to two weeks, and added that if the expected delay is restricted to a few months, then that "is not a huge problem for Emirates if it is known in advance".
But, "a six- to 12-month delay would be a serious issue for the carrier... because it would substantially slow down Emirates' ambitious growth plans," Clark said, according to the statement.
Air France-KLM said Airbus had warned it of a delay in A380 deliveries, but added that the companies had yet to confirm a revised delivery schedule. Air France is due to take its first delivery of an A380 in April 2007. It has made a firm order for 10 A380s, with an option for four others.
Lufthansa in the dark
** ARCHIV ** Ein Archivbild vom 20. November 2001 zeigt im Hintergrund ein landendes Flugzeug der deutschen Fluggesellschaft Lufthansa am internationalen Flughafen Frankfurt/ Main. Im Vordergrund ist das Logo eines Flugzeuges der Luftfahrtgesellschaft sichtbar. Die Lufthansa hat im ersten Quartal 2003 rote Zahlen eingeflogen und rechnet auch im Gesamtjahr operativ mit einem Minus. Die Lage sein noch nie so ernst gewesen, teilte Vorstandschef Juergen Weber am Mittwoch, 14. Mai 2003 mit. (AP Photo/Frank Rumpenhorst) ** zu APD7359
German flag-carrier Lufthansa, meanwhile, said delays in the delivery of its 15 A380s were "possible" but the company has not yet received any notification from Airbus on this matter. "We have not yet received a delivery schedule from Airbus," a spokesman said.
He said that Lufthansa's contract with Airbus includes arrangements for financial penalties in case of delayed deliveries, but declined to give details. Asked whether the company would make use of this clause, he said: "Why do you think we have this clause?" Lufthansa expects the first of its superjumbos to arrive in autumn 2007.
The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company owns 80 percent of Airbus, which generates most of its sales. The other 20 percent is held by British group BAE Systems.
Shares in EADS plunged sharply on news of the delay, but later recouped much of their losses as investors cheered a lucrative military contract.
EADS closed 0.25 percent lower at 23.97 euros after its joint venture MEADS International announced it had signed a 3.2 billion dollar contract for the Medium Extended Air Defense System for the US, German and Italian armed forces.