Friday, 15 June 2012

A380 Wing Cracks: Who Is Paying?

The wing cracks that have plagued the Airbus A380 over recent months is going to costs millions of dollars to put right, but who is actually responsible for the repair costs?

The cost to Airbus for researching the wing cracks, developing a fix and implementing the modified design for future wings is currently sitting at more than $315 US Dollars.

To implement the permanent fix on existing aircraft, Airbus estimates that it will take 8 weeks if the repairs are completed in one go. Alternatively, airlines can add extra time to the end of each major maintenance check until the fix is completed. Airbus and the airlines insist the A380 is safe to fly in the meantime.

However, there now seems to be a differing opinion on whether or not compensation should be paid to the affected airlines. Airbus says no compensation will be paid, whilst Emirates President Tim Clark feels otherwise.

Speaking to Aviation Week on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association annual general assembly in Beijing, Tim Clark said "Chief Operating Officer - Customers John Leahy has said there is no compensation, but we take a different view. Airbus have a legal obligation to fix the aircraft at their expense." However, he also concedes that the purchase contracts do not include a clause for this scenario, adding "In all fairness, nobody would ever have contemplated anything like this."

Emirates Airline is seeing significant financial impacts to its bottom line as interim repair costs continue to grow. Clark estimates that it is costing his airline $30 million per month as aircraft are taken out of service for interim repairs to be carried out. The airline has the largest fleet of A380's in the world with 21 in active service and another 23 due by early 2014. The 23 new aircraft will each have the problematic wings because Airbus can only get the new wings ready for 2014. The interim repairs are only supposed to take 6 days according to Airbus, but Clark claims this is taking up to 42 days for his aircraft. "It's taking quite a long time because we have the largest fleet."

So whilst Airbus is taking a financial hit to redesign the wing and everything that goes with it, their airlines customers are also seeing huge costs as a result of taking the aircraft out of service.

Is it right that Airbus refuses to pay these valuable customers compensation? Will their customers be happy at this decision. I feel we haven't heard the last of this, not by a long chalk.

One of Emirates Airbus A380 Aircraft (Photo Credit: MCPCShowcaseHD)

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