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Thu, Mar 23, 2006

Emirates Asks Airbus: So, What's The Deal With The A340?

May Hold Out For Enhanced Plane... At Expense Of Current Orders

When Dubai-based Emirate Airlines asks a question, just about anybody in aviation manufacturing wants to have the right answer. Such is undoubtedly the case in Toulouse, France right now, as Airbus mulls over the future of its slow-selling A340.

As Aero-News reported last week, Airbus is reconsidering the future of the A340 because it's just not selling well against the Boeing 777.

Airbus sold just 15 A340s last year... while Boeing racked up more than 150 777 sales. Better fuel economy afforded by the twin-engine 777 is seen as the biggest factor in the sales discrepancy.

In light of last year's dismal A340 sales, Airbus is reportedly considering scrapping the four-engined widebody... but another possibility is yet another version of the airliner, called the A340-Enhanced -- which would reportedly feature the new, more fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce engines originally intended for the upcoming A350.

Emirates is the launch customer for the A340-600, termed the High Gross Weight (HGW) version, which is supposed to begin deliveries later this year. Now, however, the airline is asking Airbus to clarify its plans for the A340 before it takes delivery of any -600s.

"Our order for 20 A340-600s still stands. (But) We are waiting for (information on) the enhanced version," Emirates President Tim Clark said.

Airbus isn't saying much about the whole situation. When asked, company PR-types simply decline comment -- as does Airbus's usually loquacious sales guru, John Leahy.

If Emirates defers on its -600 deliveries, Airbus would have to find other carriers to take those planes. One possible customer would be rival Qatar Airways, which has also ordered the A340-600.

Unless, of course, that carrier starts to look at the A340-Enhanced, too...

FMI: www.airbus.com, www.emirates.com

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