The future of the Airbus A380 superjumbo could rest on just one country

Key Points
  • Airlines are attracted to smaller planes that can also fly long distances
  • China may buy into the program as it tries to develop aerospace knowledge
  • Airbus boss is currently in China with French presidential trade delegation
An employee works on an Airbus A380 plane inside the Air France KLM maintenance hangar at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, France, May 31, 2016.
Philippe Wojazer | Reuters

Hugely popular with passengers but less so with airlines, after just 10 years in the sky, the A380 superjumbo is struggling to find buyers.

The France-based manufacturer is reportedly offering China an industrial partnership with the company if Beijing places orders for its largest passenger jet. Airbus Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier is in China to hold talks after traveling to the country as part of French President Emmanuel Macron's trade mission.

Rami Myerson, an analyst at Investec, said Monday that there had been speculation for some time that Beijing will invest in the struggling superjumbo.

"There is a view that aircraft and airspace are becoming more and more congested and given the strong growth in China that could be an attractive plane for the country," he said.

Airbus currently has fewer than 100 Airbus A380s on its production line and it is expected that some of these orders will be canceled.

It had hoped to announce a fresh deal for at least 30 more A380s with top customer Emirates at the Dubai Airshow in November, but that never happened and negotiations appear to have stalled.

Emirates has expressed concern that, with few other customers, Airbus may not be able to fulfill its delivery promise.

NASSER YOUNES | AFP | Getty Images

Myerson said that it was "definitely a possibility" the plane's program could end if China showed no interest in working on it.

The analyst added that there is competition from upgraded 777 and that airlines are debating if they want a slightly smaller aircraft for long-haul operations.

Fulfilling capacity demand is one reason for China to buy the A380, but Myerson said another incentive is to glean technical experience of how a wide-body aircraft is built.

China has openly stated that it wants to grow its own domestic aerospace industry so that in future it can vie with the likes of Boeing and Airbus.

Airbus has a new senior management team coming on board in early 2019 and Myerson said that while it will be expected to address the future of the A380, investors will be focused more on the success of the A320 and A350 programs.