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Plan for 840 seat all economy A380 ditched by Air Austral

That crazy plan to fly all economy class A380s with 840 seats between an Indian Ocean hub and Paris has been sunk by Air Austral, which ordered two of the giant jets in 2009 for the proposed future service..

However in an intriguing insight into what is going on at the French carrier published by APEX (the UK based Airline Passenger Experience Association) the Air Austral CEO, Marie-Joseph Malé, who took over the controls last year, also makes it clear the A380 order hasn’t been cancelled.

Instead it might use the big airliners more sensibly, or convert their purchase value into a larger fleet of smaller Airbuses.

Air Austral had a short, curious and commercially inglorious tenure in Australian skies after the announcement of the original A380 plans, when it operated a 777 service from Noumea to Paris via Sydney and the south Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.

Very keenly priced seats were sold on the Australian market for the Sydney-Paris section, as well as to cities in Africa via connections at the spectacular and remote island, yet the epic travel times this involved seemed to be a factor in lack of support.

Which was a pity. La Reunion is said to be among the most rewarding of the world’s travel destinations less visited.

With Air Austral NOT flying an A380 at or close to its maximum passenger capacity, the question is, Who will?

Jetstar? Scoot? Air Vladivostok? Airbus has predicted at various times that the capacity of the A380 could be turned to high seat count connections between super cities in Asia in particular. That prediction may well come true within several decades as economic growth in the archipelago nation of Indonesia or in other geographical zones where high speed rail is impracticable.  Indonesia is replacing inter island ferries with single aisle air services now, but the future potential demand for travel could see them supplanted by very large jets.

In an Australia with a population of 50 million by the middle of the century, high capacity A380s or similar may well be a frequent offering on the Sydney-Melbourne route as well as between the southern mega cities and Brisbane and the Gold Coast.  With, or without, high speed rail, and the new cities that those corridors would, if built, facilitate.

Air Austral may turn out to be an asterisk or footnote at the bottom of the screen in the history of air travel in the 21st century, noting that this carrier had the right idea, but 40 years too soon.


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  • 1
    Dan Dair
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Isn’t this reminiscent of the Japanese use of 747’s on their internal flights, because of the high demand on a number of routes.?
    If the market’s there, sooner or later a commercial operator will find it and exploit it.

  • 2
    michael r james
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Since I first contemplated going to Europe via Mauritius in the late 70s/early 80s I have always wanted to visit. But it is an awkward route.

    Crazy idea: Get the four governments (UK, Australia, Mauritius, France: Ile de la Reunion is a DOM of France, ie. overseas department) to make a single superhub in which all their flag-carriers (BA, VA, AF, QF, Virgin Aust.) use it as an open transit point. Both these islands (only 170 km apart) would benefit enormously by the greatly increased tourism, and possibly eventually business. The airlines would have a new route to Europe/Oz and to southern Africa etc.

    (I have no idea if other countries, like SA, would be obliged to accept a Qantas flight that has stopped in this hypothetical Reunion hub, offloaded/picked up new pax, then flown on to JoBurg etc?
    Interesting complication: Reunion is actually part of the EU and the Eurozone!)

    Of course France and Mauritius (formerly UK colony) would bicker over which would host the hub. I suspect Reunion would win, not just because the French are stubborn but because I assume it gets more air traffic (lots of Hexagonals holiday there, though plenty also go to Mauritius because it is also French speaking but possibly they transit via Reunion).

    Actually, Wikipedia has just educated me to the fact that Air Mauritius is one of the bigger and most successful African airlines. And it was originally set up as a Air France/BOAC joint venture!

  • 3
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I think in general seat charts on the A380s will move in the direction of 600 seats on most airlines.

  • 4
    Steve Martin
    Posted August 3, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    IMHO…We’ll not see 840 seat A380 airplanes in Australia, at least not on the east coast.

    Reason ? It would take FAR too long to turn these aircraft around, I’d be surprised if it could be done in under two hours, compare that with a budget-carrier time of sub-30 minutes and during that time your budget carrier has loaded their pax, flown them SYD-MEL, got them off, put a new load on, and flown the new lot back to SYD, while you’re still sitting there ……

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