PARIS, June 16 Europe's Airbus plans to
upgrade its A380 superjumbo with fuel-saving wingtip devices, or
winglets, in an effort to boost slow sales of the mammoth jet,
two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The latest modifications to the world's largest airliner
will be announced at next week's Paris Airshow, they said,
proceeding with a programme of efficiency improvements first
reported by Reuters in March.
"We have always said the A380 has further efficiency upside
potential," an Airbus spokesman said, declining further comment.
The A380 has suffered a dearth of sales as airlines switch
to slightly smaller models with two engines, which are easier to
fill and cheaper to maintain.
The project to make the double-decker A380 more attractive
to buyers has already led to the scrapping of its "grand
staircase" in favour of a more compact structure, leaving more
room for seats.
The combination of the improved aerodynamic wing performance
and increased seating to more than 600 would lower the operating
cost per seat, a key barometer for airlines.
Airbus Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier confirmed
last week that Airbus was considering improving the A380 with
winglets to make it cheaper to fly.
Such devices cut fuel consumption by reducing drag, but they
can involve a weight penalty because the wing may have to be
Industry sources have estimated that the overall makeover
would improve fuel efficiency by about 2 percent.
(Editing by David Goodman)