Japanese carrier Skymark Airlines’ 2011 order for six Airbus A380s has been canceled, in a move which appears to have raised Airbus’ heckles.
On July 29, Airbus issued the following statement:
“Following discussions with Skymark Airlines and in light of the airline’s expressed intentions in respect of the A380, Airbus has in accordance with its contractual rights, notified Skymark Airlines that the purchase order for the six A380s signed in 2011 has been terminated. Airbus is reserving all its rights and remedies.”
The sentence “Airbus is reserving all its rights and remedies” suggests the manufacturer is not happy with Skymark Airlines and that legal action might follow.
Airbus is likely to be particularly unhappy because Skymark Airlines’ first A380 is already flying, having performed its first flight on April 8. The aircraft was due for delivery by 2015, so Skymark Airlines has given Airbus little notice of its intention to cancel its six-A380 order.
Skymark Airlines’ decision to cancel its Airbus A380 order ‒ or rather, from the wording of the Airbus statement, the manufacturer’s decision to cancel Skymark Airlines’ order for it ‒ puts further pressure on an A380 orderbook which is already displaying signs of growing weakness.
The order cancellation reduces firm orders for the A380 to 318 aircraft and at least 26 other A380s for which firm orders have been placed are regarded as potentially vulnerable.
These 26 aircraft include 10 A380s ordered several years ago by Hong Kong Airlines, but for which the Chinese government failed to give the required purchase approval; the aircraft are now listed as being for an undisclosed customer and the future status of the order is uncertain.
They also include two aircraft ordered speculatively by Air Austral, a carrier based in the French overseas department of Réunion, which reportedly planned to operate the aircraft in high-density seat configuration seating up to 800 passengers on its main route from Réunion (a large island in the southwest Indian Ocean).
In May 2012, Air Austral announced it would defer or cancel its A380s.
Also regarded as very uncertain is the firm order Virgin Atlantic Airways has long held for six Airbus A380s. Virgin Atlantic chairman Sir Richard Branson said several years ago ‒ even though Virgin Atlantic had already ordered the A380s ‒ that the airline would not operate any new four-engine types after the Airbus A340-600 and Boeing 747-400. Both these types are currently in its fleet but are intended for early replacement.
Additionally, Australian carrier Qantas, which already has 12 A380s in service, deferred into the 2020s the deliveries of the eight remaining aircraft in its firm order, saying it had no need for the capacity in the short to medium term. Doubts began to spread in the industry that Qantas would ever take the aircraft.
However, since its deferral of the eight A380s, Qantas has developed a strategic partnership with Emirates and this has resulted in passenger traffic picking up massively between Australia and Europe via Dubai. So it is possible Qantas could still take the aircraft.
Yet another potential A380 uncertainty for Airbus is its order for four A380s from Russia’s Transaero Airlines.
At present this order is not regarded as being vulnerable, but increasing political tensions between Russia and the European Union and the growing likelihood of Europe applying real economic sanctions to Russia could yet put Transaero Airlines’ A380 order (and the airline’s parallel order for four Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental jets) into doubt.
Although leasing company Amedeo placed a firm order for 20 A380s in 2013 and says it expects to place many of the aircraft with airlines which have not yet operated the superjumbo type, no new airline customers have signed a firm order for the A380 for more than two years.