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.