Emirates Airline expects its Airbus A380s to start undergoing permanent wing repairs in March. The airline will pull four of the aircraft from service at a time for a period of eight weeks, Emirates Airline President Tim Clark told Aviation Week. That is about six weeks later than planned earlier this year.

The airline is the most affected in terms of sheer volume by the extensive repair program caused by the detection of Type 1 and Type 2 cracks in A380 wings in 2011. Emirates aircraft are undergoing preliminary repairs that must be repeated after about 500 flight hours. The permanent fixes are intended to restore the A380 to its full life cycle of 90,000 hours. A total of 44 aircraft will have been delivered with wings that need repairs by November 2014. The 45th A380 will be the first Emirates aircraft with the newly designed wings.  Clark points out that it is key for Airbus to receive European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification for the new design soon. “If you are coming up with a new wing in Jan. 14, you are not far away from production start.”

Clark does not go into details as far as financial compensation from Airbus is concerned. Airbus initially wanted to pay for repairs only, but airlines including Emirates have demanded more. “I think it would be fair to assume that we would reasonably ask for the measurable damage to us, which is basically the loss of profit,” Clark says. “I believe Airbus is going to be reasonable on that.”

Emirates said earlier this year that it is losing about $30 million in profit per month because of the A380 preliminary repair work, and external auditors have determined the figure is closer to $50 million.

Even given the slow pace of orders for the A380, Clark believes the aircraft is has been accepted by the market. “Are airlines stepping up to buy it at the pace Airbus would like? Probably not. Are they stepping up to buy the competitor aircraft 747-8I? No.” In his view, “there is a question mark over the large end” of the market. “But look at the state of the aviation industry. Look at the state of the liquidity and debt providers. I would like to think this is a temporary thing.” Once long-haul travel is restored after the current downturn, “the A380 is a very elegant, environmentally friendly and economically efficient way of meeting that demand.”