Airbus Flight Shows Off Troubled A380

Airbus' A380 has had a two-year production delay. But a trip on the first flight open to the media demonstrated why all but one customer, a cargo carrier, think the superjumbo is worth the wait.

The superjumbo may turn heads, but whether it can turn a profit remains to be seen. Analysts estimate the program's total cost has reached as much as 15 billion euros ($19.5 billion).

Harald Liberge of CM-CIC Securities is skeptical about the 420-plane break-even point previously projected by Airbus - particularly in light of the compensation talks still under way over much of the current A380 order book. Airbus Chief Operating Officer Mario Heinen declined to give a revised program cost or confirm the break-even figure.

The drain on resources has also set Airbus back in the more lucrative market for midsized jets, where Boeing's long-range, fuel-efficient 787 has been a runaway success. Airbus launched its response, the A350 XWB, just three months ago for 2013 entry into service - five years after its main rival.

The A380 may be an "engineer-driven" program that "will not make a penny for the next 10 years," Liberge said - but that does not mean it will not be a commercial success for decades after that.

"Like the 747, it should be operating for the next 40 years," Liberge said. "The demand is definitely there - this isn't another Concorde."


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