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End of an era: Airbus delivers last A380 superjumbo to Dubai’s Emirates

Airbus is set to deliver the final A380 superjumbo to Dubai’s Emirates on Thursday, marking the end of a 14-year run that gave Europe an instantly recognized symbol across the globe but failed to fulfil the commercial vision of its designers.

Production of the world’s largest airliner – capable of seating 500 people on two decks together with perks like showers in first class – has ended after 272 were built compared with the 1,000 or more once predicted.

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Airbus, a plane making conglomerate drawn together from separate entities in Britain, France, Germany and Spain to carry out their brainchild of mega-jets to beat congestion, pulled the plug in 2019 after airlines went for smaller, leaner models.

Thursday’s handover is expected to be low key, partly because of COVID restrictions and also because Airbus is focusing its PR on environmental benefits of smaller jets.

That’s in stark contrast to the spectacular light show that revealed the new behemoth in front of European leaders in 2005.

Emirates is by far the largest buyer and still believes in the superjumbo’s ability to lure passengers. Even though no more A380s will be built, it will keep flying them for years. Many airlines disagree and have axed the A380 during the pandemic.

Airline president Tim Clark refuses to bow to sceptics who say the days of spacious four-engine jets like the A380 are numbered as an airline seat becomes a commodity like any other.

“I don’t share that view at all … And I still believe there is a place for the A380,” Clark recently told reporters.

“Technocrats and accountants said it was not fit for purpose … That doesn’t resonate with our travelling public. They absolutely love that airplane,” he said.

Shower talks

The A380’s demise left deserted one of the world’s largest buildings, a 122,500-square-metre assembly plant in Toulouse.

Airbus plans to use part of it to build some of the bread-and-butter narrowbody models that dominate sales like a deal with Qantas announced earlier on Thursday.

But it is in Hamburg that some of the most striking features of the A380 evolved.

Clark recalled how he huddled with Airbus developers in northern Germany to persuade Airbus chiefs in France to pay for the engineering needed to make in-flight showers a reality.

“There was a lot of arm-folding and my friends in France were a little circumspect,” Clark said.

“I had to sit with friends in the development unit in Hamburg having to build the showers, and then asked Toulouse management to see how it could be done, and so they bought in.”

That innovation generated headlines but did not translate into sales needed to keep the A380 going.

The plane was designed in the 1990s when travel demand was soaring and China offered seemingly unlimited potential.

By the time the first delivery came in 2007, the plane was more than two years late. And when Emirates got its first A380 a year later, the emerging financial crisis was already forcing analysts to trim their forecasts for the biggest jets.

Boeing was meanwhile capturing orders for a revolutionary new 787 Dreamliner, to be followed by the Airbus A350.

“There was a slowing down of appetite and enthusiasm. We didn’t share that view; we put this great (A380) aircraft to work,” Clark said on the sidelines of an airlines meeting.

“We have what I think is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever flown.”

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Ryanair cabin crew in Spain announce 12 new days of strikes in July

Spain-based cabin crew at Ryanair plan to strike for 12 days this month to demand better working conditions, the USO and SICTPLA unions said on Saturday, raising the prospect of travel chaos as the summer tourist season gets under way.

The announcement came on the final day of the crews’ current strike, which began on Thursday and forced Ryanair to cancel 10 flights in Spain on Saturday.

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Cabin crew will strike on July 12-15, July 18-21 and July 25-28 across the 10 Spanish airports where Ryanair operates, the unions said in a statement.

“The unions and crew of Ryanair … demand a change of attitude from the airline,” they said in a statement, calling for Ryanair to resume negotiations on working conditions.

The unions also urged the government “not to allow Ryanair to violate labor legislation and constitutional rights such as the right to strike.”

Airline workers across Europe have been staging walkouts as the sector adapts to a resumption of travel after pandemic lockdowns.

Spain-based cabin crew at easyJet are striking for nine days this month for higher pay. The airline cancelled five flights from Spain on Saturday.

Workers at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport went on strike on Friday and into Saturday, forcing the cancellation of about 10 percent of flights.

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Tesla braces for delayed delivery due to China plant shutdown

Tesla Inc. is expected to announce quarterly production and delivery figures this weekend that will likely be among the worst of the year – and break its multi-quarter streak of record-setting results – due largely to an extended shutdown of its factory in Shanghai.

The electric vehicle maker may have delivered more than 261,000 vehicles globally during the three months ended in June, according to nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, ending a two-year stretch of consecutive quarterly gains.

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Tesla handed over more than 310,000 vehicles in the first three months of the year, more than any previous quarter.

“We cut our second-quarter deliveries estimate by 65,000 to 245,000 units, reflecting a prolonged Covid 19-related shutdown and logistical challenges in the Shanghai factory,” wrote Emmanuel Rosner of Deutsche Bank in a research note to clients. “Recall that during the first-quarter call, CEO Elon Musk had provided directional guidance of sequentially flat deliveries for the quarter but the situation in China worsened subsequently,” only improving in early June.

Shares of Tesla rose 1.2 percent to close trading Friday at $681.79, but the stock is down about 35 percent so far this year.

Deliveries are one of the most closely watched metrics at Tesla. They underpin the Austin, Texas-based company’s financial results and are widely seen as a broad barometer of consumer demand for EVs amid a wider shift away from the internal combustion engine.

Many large automakers will announce US sales results Friday but Tesla, which reports global totals, hasn’t specified a release date.

Dan Levy, an analyst with Credit Suisse, reduced his delivery estimate for the period to 242,000 units. “In aggregate, we believe the Shanghai shutdown accounted for about 90,000 units of lost production in the second quarter,” Levy wrote in a note to clients.

Tesla makes the Model S, X, 3 and Y vehicles at its plant in Fremont, California. It also produces Models 3 and Y at a factory near Shanghai. The company has begun delivering the first Model Ys from its new plant near Berlin and held a “Cyber Rodeo” event for 15,000 people in April to celebrate a new factory in Austin.

‘Money Furnaces’

However, both Berlin and Austin have been slow to ramp up production, with Musk warning in a late May interview that both plants are “gigantic money furnaces.”

Analysts and investors are also worried that the price hikes automakers are imposing to combat soaring raw material costs will weigh on demand. Tesla had boosted its sticker prices by as much as $6,000 a car earlier this month, according to Electrek.

A stronger-than-expected delivery number could provide a boost to Tesla’s stock, which is down more than 35 percent this year amid wider market concerns about rising energy costs, inflation and a potential recession.

Musk shares many of those concerns and is in the process of laying off 10 percent of Tesla’s salaried work force while pushing others to return to the office.

Earlier this week, Tesla laid off roughly 200 people on its Autopilot team, mostly hourly employees who worked as data annotation specialists.

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Regulator urges Germans to prepare for possible gas shortage

Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s regulatory agency for energy called on residents Saturday to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases.
Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged house and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.
“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10 percent to 15 percent,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.
Mueller said residents and property owners need to use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to get ready. He said families should start talking now about “whether every room needs to be set at its usual temperature in the winter – or whether some rooms can be a little colder.”
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The appeal came after Russia reduced gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month, as European Union countries scramble to refill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter.
Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom blamed a technical problem for the reduction in natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a pipeline which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
The company said equipment getting refurbished in Canada was stuck there because of Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
German leaders have rejected that explanation and called the reductions a political move in reaction to the European Union’s sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine.
Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s economy and climate minister and responsible for energy, has warned a “blockade” of the pipeline is possible starting July 11, when regular maintenance work is due to start. In previous summers, the work has entailed shutting Nord Stream 1 for about 10 days, he said.
The question is whether the upcoming regular maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline will turn into “a longer-lasting political maintenance,” the energy regulator’s Mueller said.
If the gas flow from Russia is “to be lowered for a longer period of time, we will have to talk more seriously about savings,” he said.
According to Mueller, in the event of a gas supply stoppage, private households would be specially protected, as would hospitals or nursing homes.
“I can promise that we will do everything we can to avoid private households being without gas,” he said, adding: “We learned from the coronavirus crisis that we shouldn’t make promises if we’re not entirely sure we can keep them.”
He said his agency “does not see a scenario in which there is no more gas coming to Germany at all.”
Also on Saturday, German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel said it was considering encouraging its employees to work from home in the winter as a response to a possible supply shortage.
“We could then greatly reduce the temperature in the offices, while our employees could heat their homes to the normal extent,” Henkel CEO Carsten Knobel told daily newspaper Rheinische Post.
Earlier this month, Habeck activated the second phase of Germany’s three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies, warning that Europe’s biggest economy faced a “crisis” and storage targets for the winter were at risk.
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