Airbus expects large orders for super jumbo A380 from Indian carriers

Singapore: After making the first commercial delivery of the world's largest passenger aircraft, the A380, to launch customer Singapore International Airlines, its manufacturer Airbus has expressed confidence at receiving more orders for the super jumbo from airlines in India, one of aviation's hottest markets.

According to Airbus, Indian flag carrier, Air India, is mulling purchase of ten Airbus A380s with another eight to ten as options. John Leahy, chief operating officer (customers), Airbus, says, "We are currently in discussions with Air India and in the process of conducting route tests for the airline. We expect the orders to finalise in about six months."

Private carrier, Kingfisher Airlines, has been the only Indian customer for the super jumbo, placing orders for five such aircraft. The list price for an A380 is $319 million, which would price the whole Air India deal at around $3 billion, if it should materialise. It is common to receive hefty discounts for orders, however, especially if they are placed at an early stage of the game or is sufficiently large in size.

Though the first A380 has been delivered 18 months behind schedule, Airbus is confident of securing larger orders over the coming months. "Global air traffic is expected to triple in the next 20 years. With a major portion of that growth coming from India, it makes sense for national carriers such as Air India to purchase such long-haul aircraft. If Kingfisher and Air India get it, I don't see why Jet Airways wouldn't want one," says Leahy.

According to industry analysts, Air India's current fleet consists of a large number of ageing Boeing 747-200s and 747-400s, which are likely candidates for replacement by the A380.

According to Airbus, an Air India A380 super jumbo could very likely service high-growth hubs such as London and New York. Passenger volumes on the India-US sector are expected to double over the next two years, according to Boeing estimates.