Airbus Is Considering An “A380-Plus,” With Up To 50 More Seats

As a passenger, my favorite plane in the world to fly is the A380. It’s massive, quiet, a smooth ride, has some of the best onboard products in the world, and has a very cool tail camera.

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While it’s a great plane as a passenger, unfortunately it’s a bit of a flop financially. While the A380 is the backbone of Emirates’ fleet, other airlines haven’t been as happy with the plane.

Why? Because filling as many seats as the A380 has can be difficult, at least at decent yields. Airlines would rather buy planes like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, which are also fuel efficient, but lower capacity. This allows them to achieve better yields, and also to operate longhaul routes that previously wouldn’t have been practical. Airlines also care about operating competitive schedules, so on most markets they’d rather have two flights a day on a smaller plane than one flight a day on a bigger plane.

So for years we’ve been hearing rumors of Airbus cutting A380 production. They’ve only had orders for three A380s in the past few years from ANA, and they were sort of forced to purchase those planes.

Well, Gulf News is reporting that Airbus may be considering an “A380-Plus,” which would hold 40-50 more passengers and be more fuel efficient. How would they achieve this?

  • They would get rid of the grand staircase at the front of the plane in favor of a smaller staircase, as they could accommodate more seats that way; they would also modify the spiral staircase at the back of the plane
  • They would add wingtips, which would improve fuel efficiency
  • These changes would add about three tons to the A380’s maximum takeoff weight

Qantas-A380-First-Class-61

There’s a chance they may make these changes available as a retrofit for existing planes, though this isn’t clear yet. This all seems far from certain, and Airbus hasn’t confirmed or denied it; rather Gulf News is going off of anonymous sources.

While a more fuel efficient and higher capacity plane sounds great, I don’t think it’ll actually make a difference in terms of demand. The A380’s problem isn’t that it doesn’t have enough seats, but rather that it doesn’t allow airlines to maximize their yields.

If airlines wanted to add more seats to the A380, they already could. Emirates, Etihad, Korean, and Qatar could get rid of their lounges on the A380. Airlines could easily squeeze 11 seats per row into A380 economy.

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Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-077

Many airlines operating the A380 have extremely inefficient configurations. For example, Korean Air has only 407 seats on their A380s, when they could potentially add another 150 seats. But they choose not to.

So while a more fuel efficient and higher density plane sounds great, the real problem with the A380 is that it was probably “born” a couple of decades too early. Eventually the demand for the plane will be there, as the world population continues to grow and becomes increasingly mobile. However, that time hasn’t quite come yet, unless you’re Emirates… and even they’re deferring delivery of some A380s.

Comments

  1. I’m actually glad KE only has 407 seats. To me, A380 is GREAT when flying in First or Business class. If flying in economy on a fully sold out A380 flight, the experience is downright miserable… From long queues at the toilets, running out of food choices, and long queues when boarding and disembarking… Just not a pleasant experience. Not sure why they’d want to add 50 more in Y.

  2. The A380 is too large and too late. Fuel prices aren’t as economical, the markets are too narrow, the plane needs specialized gates, and they take too long to deliver.

    I’d say kill off the program, but Airbus has sunk too much money into it. Maybe if they build it out of carbon fiber and lighter materials?

  3. Actually this idea is not original. When Airbus hinted that it could phase out the production of the 380, Tim Clark stroke back at them (not without reason having invested in 200 of them) saying, improve it, make it more fuel efficient and we’ll double our purchase. That was a couple of years back. Today, with EK president hinting his departure sometime soon, I am not sure that his successor would commit on a similar possibility with the airline profit slashing in a year of approx 75%. F class is oversupplied. Long haul low cost (like Norwegian) are getting tough to beat. I think Airbus came with the idea a little too late. With petty orders a decade ago, they should have done better their homework.

  4. Haha, I only enjoy flying the A380 in First Class, or in Business on EK or QR. Other than that, I go out of my way to choose a different plane. And I would certainly do everything in my power to avoid an A380 in Y.

  5. Good see Karen back again (I’ll call our friendly Qatar bar attendant Karen, she’s around so much she’s become part of the family)! I hope your flight today is a good one!

  6. @BrooklynBoy
    Why? I don’t see how a 10-abreast Y class in an A380 should be less comfortable than 10-abreast in the significantly narrower 777. Besides the fact that the A380 is among the quietest planes (for the passengers) on the market…

  7. @BrooklynBoy I’d probably go out of my way to fly Y on an A380 when its 10 abreast compared to a 77W that’s 10 abreast. It’s probably not full (it wasnt when I flew EK DXB-JFK) and you could grab a whole row of 4 seats to yourself.

  8. I think with Tim Clark also wanted was something similar close to an A380neo….a new engine and a better design, which looks like Airbus is still unwilling to invest in. I doubt there are many takers for this half hearted attempt from Airbus to revive their slumping sales.

  9. The last few flights I’ve flown on EY from LHR have been full in F and almost full in J, and its been off peak season.

    Then again, Y is always quite empty, and EY could do with another flight daily from LHR to be fair.

  10. Airbus has completely messed up on the A380. It was a doomed project from the get go. Great for passengers though! I love most of the A380 J and F cabins.

  11. That front staircase and the feeling of space is the best thing about the A380. It feel more like being on a ship than a plane. Cramming ever more seats in it might make sense for dense Asian routes but, otherwise, it’s eroding the key benefit of the A380 – that it’s a floating hotel rather than a flying tin can.

    I really don’t understand why it isn’t more popular as it is the heir apparent to the 747. Maybe a couple more “Sully” cases of double engine failures will revive the project?

  12. My goodness!

    Your blog suggests that in order to increase profitability the A380 should INCREASE the number of passengers – when the flights are flying EMPTY!

    To make the A380 profitable they should increase the utilization – fill the airplane. The problem with EK is that is horribly awful to fly Y. (done the 16 hour DXB-DFW – worst flight in the world even worse than Aeroflot IL86 in the 80’s).

    To make it work improve Y so that it is possible to exist in the cabin even if you are taller than 5’6″ and weigh more than 60 Kg. IE – 35″ seat pitch and 18″seat width with 8″ recline

    Then FILL Y.

    Fill the available space on every flight with quality accommodation and profit will be the result.

    Cramming more sardines into a space yields 20% occupancy.

    Pretty simple – offer better and the world will flood to your doors – especially if Y is flying empty. There are not that many cruise ships in the world to fly full Y.

  13. This particular aircraft carries more political ramifications than any other civilian aircraft in the world.
    Multiply the political factor by the EU nations and other countries involved and it is a hot potato national social program also.
    There are other engineering and safety factors to be considered whenever the load capacity is raised.
    Each inch of this particular aircraft is extremely revenue centered and the showers/lounges/staircases/crew work spaces must pull the revenue on the benefit of that fare class.

  14. “The A380’s problem isn’t that it doesn’t have enough seats, but rather that it doesn’t allow airlines to maximize their yields.”

    Lucky, an important correction: I think you mean revenue or RASK, not yield. If your point is that A380s are too big and airlines can’t fill the seats, then you are identifying a load factor issue. Load factor affects revenue and RASK, but not yield (which is the average fare divided by distance). Yield can be high even if the plane is mostly empty, and yield can be low even if the plane is sold out.

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