Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier has confirmed plans for an A380neo with more fuel-efficient engines as well as a longer version of the superjumbo – dubbed the A380-900 – capable of carrying even more passengers than today's double-decker jet.
Speaking on the second day of Airbus' annual investor event, Bregier announced "We will one day launch an A380neo and one day launch a stretched A380."
His comments follow speculation that Airbus could axe the A380 ahead of its time due to softening demand, with no new airlines signing up for the superjumbo this year, while next-generation twin-engine jets such as the A350 and Boeing 777X continue to win orders.
"We have commercial momentum on A380, we will get additional customer" Bregier continued. "We have to get more customers, and convince them there is much more upside than downside to the A380."
The Airbus A380neo
Earlier this year Airbus admitted it was looking at a next-generation Airbus A380neo, based on lobbying for the proposed aircraft by Emirates Airways, which is its largest A380 customer.
The A380neo would rely on new high-efficiency engines (in Airbus parlance, 'neo' stands for 'new engine option') and refined aerodynamics to fly more miles while burning less fuel.
“(The A380) is our flagship and there is a distinct possibility that the neo, if built, will give us an improvement in economics of up to 10 to 12 per cent so that is definitely worth having" said Emirates president Tim Clark has previously said.
Clark has now dangled the prospect of a massive A380neo order, tellingReuters that Emirates would eventually replace all the 140 A380s it has ordered with an A380neo.
Airbus has already added a neo version to the single-aisle A320 family and the popular A330 twin-aisle jet.
The Airbus A380-900
Airbus is already floating a revamped A380 design with as many as 22% more seats, including an optional 11 seats across in economy, but a supersized A380 could carry close to 1,000 passengers.
Known as the A380-900, it's a big brother to the original A380-800 and already exists on the drawing board – but was shelved in May 2010 due to soft demand.
However, Airbus has previously said that the "design for the A380-900 can be reactivated at the appropriate time."
The A380-900 would carry at least 100 more passengers than current A380-800, with 650 passengers in a standard multi-class configuration and over 900 passengers if filled with with economy-only seating.
TheA380-900 is essentially a stretched version of the A380-800, measuring 79.4m from tip to tail – 6.4m (the length of a shipping container) more than today's A380.
Airbus executive vice president Tom Williams says that expanding the already huge A380-800 to even larger variants was the plan from the start.
“I lead the team that designed the wings of the A380, and (when she first saw the models) even my good lady wife was quick to point out that the wings are very big in comparison to the fuselage” Williams told Australian Business Traveller in 2011.
“The wings are in fact designed for a much larger airplane, so we have the capability of going to a bigger fuselage – we can stretch the fuselage very easily.”
"And we have airlines today who tell us they love the A380 but it’s too small! Now it’s not an engineering issue – we can make it bigger – it’s more a question of what would be a good business case and where the market for this is."