Emirates Cancels Airbus A340-600 Order, Sends Team to France

Airline Emirates said Monday it was canceling an order for 10 Airbus A340 jets and was sending a team of technicians to France to assess the accuracy of promised delivery dates for the A380 superjumbo.

The airline, which has ordered 45 of the A380s and is the program's largest customer, said it would also cancel its options for 10 more of the mid-sized A340s.

"Emirates confirms it will not be taking delivery of its order and option for 20 Airbus A340-600 aircraft," an Emirates representative said.

The company is sending a team of technicians to Toulouse in mid-November "in order to assess if the revised timings we have been given for the delayed delivery of our A380s are achievable," said the representative, who asked not to be named because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

She said no decision had yet been made on buying other aircraft to replace the canceled order.

"We're in discussion with the manufacturer."

The Wall Street Journal had reported that Emirates Executive Vice Chairman Maurice Flanagan said the carrier would instead order 777 models from Boeing Co.

Emirates had said earlier this month that it was "reviewing all its options" after Airbus announced a further 10-month delay on delivery of its order of 45 A380 superjumbos.

That delay came on top of an earlier one-year postponement of delivery. Airbus announced a first six-month delay to the program early in 2005, followed by a second in June this year. Emirates, the largest customer for the 555-seat double-deck aircraft in a deal worth roughly US$13.5 billion (euro10.62 billion) described the delay as "very serious."

Airbus, which is owned by European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co., said Monday that it was not aware that Dubai-based Emirates was canceling any of its A340s on order.

As to the visit to Toulouse by auditors to assess the planemaker's progress on building its A380 superjumbo, Airbus was apparently unperturbed.

It's "something agreed to at the time of Christian Streiff," said spokesman Justin Dubon. "He promised customers that they would be kept up to date ... and briefed on the progress of the A380."

The plan for updates was on a monthly basis, Dubon said, and "it's up to customers to come and see and investigate how they'd like to."

Streiff was replaced on Oct. 9 by Louis Gallois, the fourth Airbus CEO in 16 months.

Airbus has taken a total of 167 firm orders for the A380, including an eight-plane order from Qantas Airways Ltd. announced Sunday.

Australia's flagship airline announced Sunday it has ordered an additional eight Airbus A380s, bringing its order for the world's largest passenger aircraft to 20.

"Our decision to increase our order has been made after an extensive review of the recent problems at Airbus and the delivery schedule delays of the A380," Qantas Chief Executive Geoff Dixon said in a statement.

"We are convinced that these problems relate to industrialization issues at Airbus and will be remedied and in no way relate to the technical capacity of the A380," Dixon added.

The aircraft are to be delivered between August 2008 and 2015, he said.

Virgin Atlantic Airways said last week it would defer the delivery of the first of its six Airbus A380 superjumbo jets until 2013.

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