For those intrigued by second rate airport planning around the world, there is so much more to this story this morning about Emirates putting a 615 seat version of the Airbus A380 onto its Hong Kong services.
Like the epic fail that has for most of the time characterised the quest for a second Sydney Airport, or the issue of an extra runway for London Heathrow, or the very ordinary state of Dubai’s own overcrowded airport, Hong Kong’s airport reflects very poorly on the behavior of those responsible for keeping it competitive with other, often newer and better run airports in its part of the Asia Pacific.
Sydney needed a new western airport a decade ago, and will get it by 2026 perhaps, Heathrow needed an extra runway late last century, and the new second Dubai airport and its associated industrial and maritime connections has been very slow to emerge even in its current fairly basic form.
Those of us who covered the conception and construction of the current Hong Kong airport and the 1998 closure of the old, but spectacular Kai Tak airport, might well remember the glowing projections made about its future expansion with further runways for fleets of VLAs, in a future that has come and gone with far more talk than action.
At the moment Cathay Pacific, which has the most daily slots between Sydney and Hong Kong (4) has zero prospect of accommodating current rates of growth of originating or hubbing traffic over the SAR, which just happens to be the investment capital centre of a large part of Asia.
Cathay Pacific’s largest jet on order, the Boeing 777-X may just fit in as many seats at the two class version of the A380 being flown by Emirates on some routes, but only with miserable seating densities compared to the giant Airbus, and maybe not until around 2022.
Meanwhile the A380 could take around 800 seats in an all economy format, using the same spacious seats its has today, if an airline saw a need for such numbers, and Hong Kong would have to be a prime candidate for such a jet.
Qantas, which operates A330-300s on the Australia-SAR routes, has occasionally scheduled its much overworked and breakage prone A380s to Hong Kong airport, and is strongly rumored to be considering turning all or most of its east coast Australia services on the route to the big Airbus when it abandons its A380 operated Dubai-Heathrow leg to Emirates.
Caution: The forgoing rumor, in various versions, has been around for a long time. Hand it down to your children.
The story in the South China Morning post has an excellent graphic showing how Emirates has converted first class and part of business class to an economy class product with real room for adults, in its two class version of the A380.
If boosting capacity yet using seats that normal people can fit into is the real future of the A380, these Emirates flights are to be its preview. It’s a much more passenger friendlier future than one where 335 people are crammed into Dreamliners that were actually intended to take around 200 passengers in civilised comfort.