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Wed, Oct 04, 2006 - Page 10 News List

SIA weighs cost of more Airbus delays

WAITING GAME Singapore Airlines said continued postponements in the delivery of the super jumbo were causing it to miss out on incremental growth on some routes


Singapore Airlines (SIA), launch customer for the Airbus A380 super jumbo, was weighing the cost of delays in delivery of the aircraft as its manufacturer prepared to discuss new holdups yesterday.

SIA was supposed to receive its first double-decker A380 early this year but Airbus last month said that additional delays in the program were possible. It was the third such announcement by Airbus and its parent company European Aeronautics Defense and Space Company (EADS) since June last year.

"We should have it by now," said Stephen Forshaw, SIA's vice president of public affairs.

Although SIA, set to be the first carrier to fly the double-decker A380, still does not know the impact of the latest expected delays, Forshaw said SIA is already missing out on incremental growth on some routes because of late arrival of the plane.

"It's not that we are in a position where we've had to stall the introduction of new routes, or anything like that," he said.

But the Singapore-London route, for example, is served daily by three Boeing 747s that SIA wants to replace with the larger A380s.

"We're talking about the inability to grow that capacity by an extra 100 seats" on each aircraft, he said. "That's incremental growth that we miss out on."

SIA operates both leased and owned aircraft. Some leases have had to be extended as a result of the A380's late arrival, he said.

The airline has 25 Boeing 747 jumbo jets in service. Some that would have retired will now remain in service longer but Forshaw said their lengthened lifespan is not a major concern as SIA tends to retire aircraft younger than other carriers.

Forshaw said some of SIA'S 747s have been flying for less than five years and the jumbos will remain a workhorse with SIA "for some years to come."

A source close to the matter said in France on Monday that directors of EADS would confer yesterday.

Airbus and EADS could disclose new delivery delays for the A380, as well as a restructuring plan for the aircraft manufacturer, following that meeting.

The source said that the new delivery schedule for the A380 would be "at the center of discussions." According to various press reports and company sources, delays are expected to be between six and 12 months. There have been repeated reports that the problems are related to wiring in the aircraft.

The first of SIA'S original order of 10 A380s was supposed to arrive by the end of the year.

"Until we hear from Airbus as to the delay that we're looking at, we really can't assess the impact," Forshaw said.

The A380, which can carry up to 840 people and will be the biggest commercial airliner in the world when it enters service, is of vital importance for the reputation of Airbus amid a fierce battle for orders with US rival Boeing.

In the meantime, next month SIA will receive the first six new Boeing 777-300ER long-range jets, Forshaw said.

Notwithstanding the A380 delay, "we've still got new aircraft coming into the pipeline," he said.

SIA in July agreed to buy nine more A380s with an option for six more, giving a crucial vote of confidence to the A380 program.

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