Jun 11, 2017

Airbus says A380 will always fit in wideboys (and girls) who can’t hack 787s

More seats, even longer range, and lower fuel burn, said to be coming soon to Airbus A380s

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

This looks more like a medical imaging experience than a space efficient A380 stairway

There is evidence, official **and unofficial, that Airbus is about to increase the practicable amount of seating offered in the world’s largest scheduled airliner the A380, and make it fly further or burn less fuel (or even do both.)

It is also a development not without risks as well as rewards for Airbus, and those of us who are of normal stature and less than impressed with insanely stupid moves in the airline game to jam every type of jet from any maker with seats so tight they inflict misery on passengers.

What is, in total, being offered to A380 operators, is fortunately nowhere as bad as already seen on many new or ‘refurbished’ Boeing 777s, 787 Dreamliners, Airbus A330s with 436 seats and alas, on some shiny new A350s.

This is because Airbus says it can retain a seat width of 18 inches or 45.7 cms in the relevant A380 Cabin Enablers even though one of them creates 23 rows of main deck economy class seating at 11 rather than ten across as found in all A380s in service at this time.

Study, perhaps with rising anxiety, the above linked report on the Runway Girl Network. It looks as though you may need therapy to recover from a long flight in an 11 across row in an A380 if you are, as the article illustrates, sitting beside the window at either end.

This Airbus line-in-the-seat -plan for its A380s present and future offers around 3-4 cms more hip bone space than found in reduced seat width nine across economy configurations like those in both the forthcoming full service Qantas 787s and the low fare Jetstar 787s now flying. Once you are part of a hip-bone sandwich in a row of seats, one centimetre less than the width at which contact is made is insufferable, or on a 17 hour sector like Perth-London, ‘eternally’ insufferable.

However the other A380 Cabin Enablers seem fine, and ought to change the rather lopsided way in which the comparative operational costs of flying the big Airbus compared to smaller hi tech designs like the 787, are debated.

Almost every claimed operating advantage of the 787 refers to jets jammed to the sidewalls with high density seating layouts, whereas the A380s now in service are with few exceptions, low density but high revenue in configuration, with much more space and general amenity in economy and premium cabins.

Comparing the per seat fuel burn of a 337 seat two class 787 to a 489 seat three class A380 is dumb, yet supposedly professional pilots keep popping up saying Qantas should sell all its A380s for the smaller jets, thus gifting even more market share from the Australian flag carrier to foreign carrier commercial partners or competitors. (Notwithstanding the current turmoil in the Middle East.)

The comparison between a 500 seat A380 as currently flown, and a multi-class class 787, ought to be at a seat count of around 180 for the Dreamliner, with the original classy eight across economy seats always envisaged as being standard by Boeing long before the current seat densification push took over.

That comparison, with an A380 that has the unofficially proposed new high efficiency wing tips, and improved engines, and internal layouts that yield up to 80 more seats, would be a far more realistic exercise.

Nor are the cabin enablers shown at regular intervals by Airbus in the last year the only innovations that could occur in current A380s. Some of the gossip about the Qantas remake of its A380 fleet involves new space efficient spiral staircases at either end of the big Airbus, and we already know that this year Emirates and Singapore Airlines will reveal totally new A380 cabins.

Whatever the truth about the Qantas ‘gossip’ there will be a gap between the faded glory of its current A380 business class product and that available now on its A330s and soon to be seen in the first of its 787-9s. That gap would have to be removed, and Qantas has said, it will at some stage, have all new product in its dozen biggest Airbuses.

The A380s already carry higher loads on routes where smaller jets are a waste of limited slots. They carry almost twice as many seats for the same number of pilots, as well as nearly doubling the carriage along the available air routes. Depending on the charging policy of a particular airport, using a larger than a smaller jet can also reduce navigation and handling costs per customer.

This topic seems to have a long way to run.

**Search for A380 Superjumbo May Get Even Larger With New Wings if the poorly constructed Bloomberg link overwrites itself.

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24 thoughts on “Airbus says A380 will always fit in wideboys (and girls) who can’t hack 787s

  1. comet

    It’s a pity that the A380 winglet concept will mean there’ll be no A380 NEO.

    Meanwhile, the aircraft famous for being the most insufferable in the sky – the 787 Dreamliner – is worse than just a hip bone sandwich. It’s shoulder rubbing shoulder. The narrow seats mean you can’t tilt. You can’t relax.

    The CIA should purchase 787 Dreamliners to put its Guantanamo prisoners in, to make them talk. It’s a torcher-chamber in the sky.

    1. J_sh

      B777 with 3-4-3 across in Economy beats it by a narrow margin.

    2. Karl

      “It’s a pity that the A380 winglet concept will mean there’ll be no A380 NEO.”

      I wouldn’t necessarily be so sure about that. Remember, Airbus executives appeared to talk down any prospects of an A330neo launch as late as one month before they launched the A330neo at the 2014 Farnborough Air Show.

      What is different now is the news about Airbus looking at 5m tall sharklets and that the space optimisation studies for the A380 appears to be coming to fruition. IMJ, therefore, the Trent 7000 engine would seem to be a perfect match for an A380neo and which would play a part in improving the A388 in such a way that it would beat the 777-9 on the important metric of fuel consumption per seat.

      Let’s start with the cabin. For example, Emirates have put 517 seats in their A380-800s that have the long-range seating configuration (i.e. configuration without a crew-rest in the aft cabin of the main deck). How many seats would they be able to put on new A380s having a revamped interior, while still maintaining a 10-abreast configuration in economy class on the main deck.

      By removing the forward stairs at the M1-doors and replacing it with new forward stairs that’s located aft of the M2-doors and forward of the U1-doors, the aft galley can be moved forward to where the forward stairs are now located. As is shown in the link below, ahead of the U1-doors, there’s enough space for the new stairs, 4 business class toilets, 6 first class cabins and one suite for two persons ( single aisle configuration), two Etihad A380 “Residence”-type bathrooms (with showers) and a first class galley.


      In the present configuration, the first class galley on the three-class Emirates A380s is placed at the U1-doors, while the business class galley, and 4 0f the 5 business class toilets, are located aft of the bar area (aft of the U3-doors on the upper deck).

      In the new configuration, I’d re-locate the bar from the aft cabin to the area immediately behind the U1-doors and the new stairs. Furthermore, I’d place the business class galley (+ economy class galley), and one business class toilet at the U2-doors. With the new aft staircase and the now talked about deactivation of the U3-doors on the upper deck, there’s enough space on the aft upper deck for 6-7 rows of 8-abreast economy class seating and 3 economy class toilets at the aft stairs, while roughly maintaining the same number of business class seats as there is in the present EK A380 configuration. In the new configuration on the main deck, EK A380s would have economy class toilets ahead of the M1-doors and at the M3-doors. The galleys would be at the M2-doors (including the new forward stairs) and at the M5-doors (including the new aft stairs).

      IMJ, therefore, Emirates should be able to put about 610 seats on future three-class A380-800neo aircraft and about 700 seats on a future A380-900; both having the standard EK A380 bar aft of the U1-doors.


      Note: The new Etihad A380-type first class is much superior to the present EK A380 first class.

      *Stretched by 10 frames – 6 frames forward of the wing, 4 frames aft of the wing.

      Now, as I’ve already mentioned, Airbus is looking at new large sharklets for the A380. What is also worth mentioning, is that Airbus could probably increase the wingspan by about 3m – from 79.75m to 82.75m. By looking at Google-Maps pictures of some of the largest A380 hubs, one can see that there typically is about a 5-6m distance of separation between parallel Category-F 80m x 80m-boxes. Thus, it would appear as if a 3m span increase is feasible (i.e. 1.5m on both sides). That would still leave about 2-3m in separation between the wingtips of adjacently parked A388neo aircraft.

      Since wing aspect ratio is span(squared)/wing-area and the fact that a blended winglet counts for about 45 percent of its physical length, the effective wingspan would be increased by 3m + 2 times (0.45 x 5m); or 7.5m
      the aspect ratio for such an upgraded wing would be (87.25m)squared/(845m + area of sharklets; about 2 times ((5m x 4m)/2)); or about 8.8. In contrast, the aspect ratio of the current wing is (79.75m)squared/845m2; or about 7.53. Thus, the aspect ratio would be increased by nearly 17 percent!

      For most subsonic aircraft configurations, induced drag contributes about 50 percent of the total drag of the aircraft throughout its flight profile. Hence, a 17 percent increase in aspect ratio of the A380 wing should lead to a 17 percent reduction in lift-induced drag, and consequently, an 8-plus percent reduction in trip fuel consumption.

      The Trent 7000 is according to RR, at least 10 percent more efficient than the Trent 700 (A330ceo) and about 6 percent more efficient than the Trent-900 (A388). The dry engine weight for the Trent 900 and original Trent 1000 is 5408 kg and 6246 kg, respectively. I haven’t got the numbers for the Trent 1000-TEN and Trent-7000 engines, but assuming they’re slightly heavier (i.e. around 5500 kg), four Trent-900 engines will have a dry weight about 3 tonnes more than the dry weight of four Trent-7000 engines – excluding the larger and heavier nacelles on the Trent-900 engines. So, in contrast to the A330neo – where the Trent-700 engine on the A330ceo is lighter than the Trent 7000 engine on the A330neo – an A388neo outfitted with four Trent-7000 engines would lead to a lighter A388 airframe (and a further reduction in fuel consumption by at least 1 percent).

      This means that a 15 percent reduction in trip fuel consumption for an A388neo – using existing engines and technologies – should be possible when we add up the increase in span by 3m; + two 5m tall sharklets; + Trent-7000 engines; and a 3 tonne-plus decrease in weight.

      In 2014, Leehamnews published an analysis on theprospect of an A380neo:

      I don’t necessarily agree with their numbers, but let’s use some of their data. Trip length was set at 7200nm. Trip fuel for the 777-300ER and A388ceo was set at 114400 kg and 183800 kg, respectively. Assuming that the 777-9 will have a 15 percent lower fuel trip burn than the 777-300ER and that an A388neo (as described above) would have a 15 percent lower fuel burn than the A388ceo, the trip fuel burn for the 777-9 and A388neo would be 97240kg and 156230 kg, respectively.

      Fuel (kg):__114400__97240__183800__156230
      Fuel/nm/seat (in kg)——————

      So, by looking at EK configuration for the 77W, 777-9, A380ceo and a possible A380neo, we can see that the EK A380ceo has a 9.8 percent higher fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile than the EK 77W, while an A388neo, as described above, would have a 0.8 percent lower fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile than the 777-9.

      Due to the significant decrease in induced drag at take-off, the Trent 7000 engine would be able to power a 10-stretched A380-900 as well. Assuming that the A380-900 would have a 10 percent higher trip fuel burn than an A388neo, the fuel consumtion for a trip length of 7200nm would be 171853 kg; or about 6.5 percent lower trip fuel consumtion than the current A388ceo.

      Fuel (kg)———171853 kg
      Fuel/nm———23.87 kg/nm
      Fuel/nm/seat —0.034

      So, a 700-seat A380-900 would have a 6.85 percent lower fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile than the 777-9. It would also have a 25 percent lower fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile than the current A380-800.

      It’s important to note that the A388neo would become an ultra long-range aircraft (A388LR) and it would have a range exceeding 9500nm (>10,000nm if MTOW would be increased from 576 tonnes to 590 tonnes). That’s why the A380-900 would be the aircraft that would replace the current A388ceo. The A388neo would be a niche type aircraft.

      An A380-900 would also have the capability of carrying 8 additional LD-3s on the lower deck. Since the new lower-deck crew-rest is equivalent to 4 LD-3s in size, the A380-900 would be able to carry on the lower deck, 28 LD-3s for pax cargo (25 pax bags per LD-3) – and 6 LD3s + three optimised (88″ / 64″ / 125″) pallets (between the main landing gear bays) for extra cargo.


      Using the Trent-7000 on both an A380-800neo and an A380-900, in addition to sharklets, a 3m increase in wingspan and a lighter airframe – and by taking full advantage of an architecturally revamped A380 interior – Airbus would be able to offer something that would be a lot more compelling to the major airlines in the world. Furthermore, the development of said A388neo and A380-900 would be much cheaper than the development of the 777X. While the 777X will be getting a whole new wing, vertical tailplane, MLG, a costly fuselage upgrade and all new very expensive engines, the A380neo and A380-900 would use the existing wing and fuselage, existing A330neo engines etc. – and finally, the A380-900 would reverse the 9.8 percent higher fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile deficit for the A388ceo vs. that of the 77W (EKtypical cabin configurations over a 7200nm trip), to a 6.85 percent lower fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile for the A380-900 vs. that of the 777-9 (EK-typical cabin configurations over a 7200nm trip) — and I haven’t even yet looked at the superior first class cabins, premium class bar (non-existant on the 77W/777-9), and the significantly wider seats in economy class that would be present on an A380-800neo and an A380-900.

  2. Tango

    To me the big question is, can they fill those extra seats?

    If they can, then Kudos to Airbus.

    If not, then its a cabin with seats not used but cost to install and carry.

    I would call this a stay tuned, I don’t see it as a resurgence of the A380 but a assist for those who currently have it and it works for on certain routes.

  3. comet

    The other question is whether Emirates will buy it.

    Emirates wanted an A380 NEO. Airbus offers them winglets instead.

    1. Fueldrum

      If Emirates doesn’t buy it then the program is history. Nobody else wants new A380s. I can’t think of a single airline for which the A380 would make sense, that doesn’t already have them.
      And those who do have them, don’t need any more.

      1. Mark Skinner

        I think that misses the point fueldrum. The A380 has chased the B747 out of the sky, and even if the A380 were mothballed, it could still be reactivated were Boeing to try to enter that space.

        Airbus has countered the B777 with its A350, slicing into Boeing’s market there. It has the A320 and A321 and A330 models covering the rest of the Market.

        You might be right about the A380, but even if you are, seen as part of an overall strategy, its placement ensures that there are very few places Boeing can go. That’s the (Boeing) killer. It can be a loss leader, just to stymie Boeing.

    2. Pete

      There has been a few articles here about things coming for the A380. So far, nothing has, no NEO, no -900, no new orders.
      The A380 is fighting for its life. The only airline that orders it is being impacted by market trends, and has a declining passenger yield (hint over-capacity on A380 legs?). Singapore has 5 older ones that it isn’t keeping – who will buy them? Airbus is looking at how they make less per year and still make it break even.
      If the A380 was the money making certainty that gets portrayed here, then surely other airlines would want a piece of the action?
      Meanwhile the 787 – even with the crazy 9 abreast – gets repeat orders from airlines that own it – google it – there are a considerable number of airlines that have extended their order for more 787s.
      So somehow there is a parallel universe happening here, or is the alternative facts everyone talks about?

      1. Ben Sandilands


        My parallel universe is the one where consumers have choices, and one in which an airline seat is no longer automatically treated as the same as another if it is painful to sit in, and the cabin has toilets that are too few in number and too small for the normal parallel universe requirement of arse wiping.

        It’s also a parallel universe in which A380s on the long range routes out of Australia attract very strong support, and are going to be in service until at least 2030, when who knows what changes in global economics, relevant externals and design and propulsion technologies will have emerged.

        If the 787s were to be configured the way Boeing intended, they may no doubt prove of continuing relevance, but only where demand is sufficiently light to justify such tiny numbers in terms of capacity versus slots.

        Your alternative universe seems to have overlooked the determination of at least three of the A380 operators, Qantas, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, to completely refurbish their cabins. You also overlook the replacement of the five retiring SQ A380s with five new ones.

        My perspective is that of the consumer, who appears to be defying your eager anticipation of A380s somehow suddenly vanishing from the skies. That isn’t going to happen, even if production of the type enters indefinite suspension tomorrow.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz

    You can see the need for the A380 on certain long range routes. eg Sydney to LAX
    all 4 existing carriers depart in a 2 hr window between 9am and 11am. There is nothing to stop a later flight but existing schedule means they arrive early morning LA time.

  5. J_sh

    I like the comment on Runway Girl referring to the implications of moving to torture rack configurations, basically that rising costs are rendering mass air travel uneconomic and the industry is trying to stave off the inevitable by keeping prices as they are but destroying the passenger experience by increasing loads and down the track airlines will have to find a new equilibrium point matching a reduced supply with a reduced demand instead of increasing supply and inevitable reducing demand anyway. Premium Economy should be ditched and a decent Economy be restored along with a decent Business, with realistic prices set for each.

  6. Fueldrum

    Anything….anything…..whatever it takes to avoid the embarrassment and reckoning of shutting that loss-making jobs program down.

    Emirates plans to take on extra A380s? Their usual practice is to sell ageing jets and take on new ones. To whom will the sell their existing A380s? And why is this purchaser not buying used A380s now?

    The worldwide demand for planes of that size is well saturated and producing an extra 12 per year will in due course overload the market. They can’t be produced at a slower rate without appalling dis-economy of scale. If the A380 can’t match the 777-x on seat costs then it only makes sense in markets where landing slots are phenomenally expensive. It isn’t even close to that goal.

    Congested seating is ‘insufferable?” Well, pay for more space. Premium economy and business class tickets are for sale, but you pay for the real estate. Most of us would rather have the extra money to spend when we arrive at the destination. That evidently applies to relatively affluent passengers too.

    1. Ben Sandilands

      Much of what you say may well be true, but I think we are seeing additional factors come into play, in the US and EU markets where the once premium products are also being compromised. Putting in the same seat pitch in regional business class as in economy, and making it an inch tighter than in the case of Ryanair, suggests trying to up-sell to customers has lost some of its attractiveness to carriers like BA and LH. Having only one toilet for all of business class in some Qantas A330s that are flown at times on routes that last 10 hours is another hint that selling on quality is more about mythical rewards than a hard product advantage at a higher price point.

      My concern as someone who thinks mass mobility is a good thing is that people may reconsider much of their flying rather than quadruple their spend on the same number of flights to sit in business class. While the notion of virtual reality meetings has failed to live up to the hype since the early 90s there is I think no doubt that the reliability and acceptability of hi-fidelity digital conferencing will begin to take more than a nibble out of
      physical business travel. I think actions which have the unintended side effect of reducing the desirability of air travel at all price points could do increasing damage to the availability and quality of premium and sub-premium products. The implications for 700 seat A380s and 440 seat 777-Xs could be painful for all the stakeholders in planemaking. In short, I think those of us who thought we could see the future based on linear developments of those things we already know and experience might be in for some shocks.

    2. Xoanon

      My problem with the “pay for more space” argument is that it’s not realistically priced. Premium Economy on Qantas’ Oz-London flights is routinely two to three times the cost of a discunt Economy fare, whereas I’d be willing (and can only afford) to pay 50% more for something a bit wider than Economy. PE pricing over long routes makes it more of a Business-lite class than an enhanced version of Economy.

  7. George Glass

    Always get a chuckle reading you boosting the A380 Ben. Repeat after me,”Its a DEAD DUCK”. Yup, I’m a professional pilot who will quote you fuel burn comparisons because …uuum…its true! Thirteen tonnes per hour and four engines to maintain loses every time to six to four tonnes an hour and two engines.I know for a certain fact that QF is only keeping them because they cant get rid of them.They are losing a bucket load on the kangaroo route.Hence the B787 Perth -London. Even Emirates has too many and is pushing them up against the fence. Doomed. A dead parrot. A dinosaur. Everybody in the industry knows it. Only commentators who still think aviation is about passenger comfort dont.

    1. Ben Sandilands

      Happy to oblige. I’m writing about passenger experience, not the conceits of a pilot who can’t quite work out that a jet that would carry 2.5 times the numbers of punters as a similarly configured 787 actually burns more fuel. Who would have thought that.
      If Qantas is losing huge sums on its A380 operation it sure isn’t showing up in its financials. If it wants to go back down the drain it would listen to those that think reducing the size of its flights in high demand markets would be a good idea.Meanwhile, adult sized quality minded consumers will seek out decent value for money configurations, which of course, includes sensibly configured 787s and 777s and A350s as well as the A380s flying the high demand routes to Europe, the UK, and US, with Hong Kong looking like it might be getting more QF A380 flights in the nearer future.

  8. George Glass

    Well believe what you like Ben. I’ll bet you 5 bucks to the charity of your nomination that the A380 production line is closed within 5 years.Stand by for QF A380s to be redeployed on Asian routes once QF 9 and 10 go to the B787. Stops the bleeding on the kangaroo route which QF can no longer compete on and keeps the sector length to less than 9 hours where the A380s fuel burn is less embarrassing. It’s economics Ben,nothing personal.

    1. Karl

      @George Glass
      If it’s not a Boeing, you ain’t flying, right? Perhaps, if you would have had a background in aeronautics – and not merely been trained in aviation – your rants might have carried more weight. What you seem to miss, however, is the fact that the current A380 has a massive upgrade potential at a relatively inexpensive cost.

      As I pointed out up-thread, the Emirates three-class 517-seat A380 has a roughly 10 percent higher fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile than the Emirates three-class 354-seat 777-300ER. Yet, Emirates has still ordered 142 A380s, presumably because its sheer size and passenger-carrying capacity seems to fit well into the Emirates business model and that the CASM for EK’s A380s are competitive with the CASM of EK’s 777-300ERs.

      Why I used Emirates as an example, is; 1) because their 777s are outfitted with a 10 abreast configuration in economy class – the same configuration that’s going to be the standard on the 777X; and 2), because their A380s have an all economy seating configuration on the main deck and an all premium class seating configuration on the upper deck (i.e. the most efficient A380 layout). While EK will be able to put an additional 16 seats, or so, on their 777-9s over what they currently have installed on their 777-300ERs, EK could put an additional 80-plus seats on revamped A380s – and they could do that while retaining the popular 10 abreast seating configuration.

      Now, if you’d bother to read my previous comment or, in fact, to just read beyond the first sentence, you should be able to grasp that if Airbus would outfit the A380 with 5m tall sharklets, increase the wingspan by 3m, re-engine the aircraft with existing Trent-7000 engines, while taking full advantage of an architecturally revamped A380 interior, the current defict in fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile for the A380 (in an EK-typical configuration) vs. that of the 777-300ER (in an EK-typical configuration) would be nullified for a 777-9 vs. that of a revamped A388. The increase in efficiency is so large, in fact, that if Airbus would choose to launch a larger A380-900 that would be outfitted with all of the same efficiency enhancements as a revamped A388, it would completely reverse the situation. The 777-9 would have a roughly 7 percent deficit in fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile over that of a 10-frame stretched A380-900, with even a greater deficit in CASM. Think about that, again; with the 777-300ER, Boeing had an aircraft with a significant lead over the A380 with respect to fuel consumption per seat-nautical mile – when the 777-300ER was outfitted with a 10 abreast economy class. However, the A350-1000 forced Boeing’s hand in such a way that the company now is spending $10 billion on a massive 777X revamp. Airbus, on the other hand, can respond by spending just a fraction of the cost of what Boeing is spending on the 777X with a relatively cheap A380 revamp project, while pressuring the 777X in a pincer movement.

    2. Ben Sandilands

      Let’s make it $50 to my cancer unit, if I make it to five years. But on topic, and your generosity is genuinely appreciated, the punters appear to have placed their chips in most cases on A380s where available in this market, and they wouldn’t know a yield manager from a check in person (where they still have jobs) anyhow. Yield managers are there to shift buys and shaft competing offers usually at the last minute.

  9. George Glass

    Maybe Karl,maybe. But my money is on the judgement of every yield management department of every major airline apart from Emirates. My bet stands.

    1. Karl

      @George Glass
      It may appear as if you view the world through American eyes and that you interpret trends in global aviation through the American experience. Looking at the US domestic air-travel situation from outside the US, however, it’s not too difficult to recognise the flaws in the system and realise that from the American consumer’s point of view, American aviation is in a pretty miserable and pathetic situation with very little competition left in the market place.

      Now, I’m all too aware of the fact that many Americans want the US going it alone and that they have a hard time getting past the “not invented here” syndrome. However, if US consumers were to demand that US regulators should copy their European colleagues in order ro reestablish the competitive aviation landscape in the US, I’m quite sure that your friends in the yield management departments of the US3 leagacy airlines would be terrified and advice the management to activate their inside-the-beltway operatives and lobbyists in order to stop the relevant regulations dead in its tracks.

      Here’s a relevant link from the Economist:

      Excerpt: “America’s airlines really do compare badly with foreign ones. European carriers are the best point of reference. Air fares are higher per seat mile in America than in Europe. When costs fall, consumers in America fail to enjoy the benefits. The global price of jet fuel—one of the biggest costs for airlines—has fallen by half since 2014. That triggered a fare war between European carriers, but in America ticket prices have hardly budged. Airlines in North America posted a profit of $22.40 per passenger last year; in Europe the figure was $7.84.”

      In short, the judgement of the typical yield department at the major US Airlines seems more to be based on the lack of real competition in the US, than a real appreciation of the fact that one of the greatest trends in global air-travel is that economy class travel is converging around the low cost model, with respect to pricing, mainly because of the competitive landscape. LCCs in a way or other have imposed new airline business rules that even their opponents have been obliged to follow. Super connecting airlines, such as Emirates and Qatar, have more or less followed the playbook of the LCCs. However, Emirates and Qatar are stimulating demand using hub and spoke operations from one super hub, in contrast to the typical LCCs which are generating demand on completely new routes or boosting overall traffic levels on routes already served by network airlines.

      As I’ve previously indicated, the main reason why the current A380 has not been ordered in greater numbers – apart from the massive 142 units orderd by Emirates – is because the current version is just not efficient enough vs. that of smaller twins. If, however, the situation would be rectified in favour of a vastly superior A380-900, you’d probaly see two new trends in global aviation; a massive increase in super connecting VLA operations from hub-to-hub and hub-to-point; and a further fragmentation on completely new routes by single aisles, such as A321LRs, on TATL, intra-Asian routes (etc.).

      Finally, therefore, moving a large number of people on A380-900s through super-hubs will erode the yields of competing legacy network carriers – but not the yield for A389 operators – because A389 operators would be both providing higher levels of comfort (attracting more passengers) and achieving economies of scale not hitherto seen, while capturing more high-yield premium traffic on the busiest routes. Also, since A389s would have twice the capacity of, say, A350-1000s, network planning would be a whole lot easier since operators could, for example, easily swap two A350-1000s for one A389. Of course, it’s understandable that management departments at the US3 legacy airlines would have relatively little insight into how a super connecting VLA business model would yield huge economies of scale.

  10. George Glass

    You’re on Ben.Fifty bucks it is.And genuinely hope your are around to pay out.Cancer is a bastard.

    1. Ben Sandilands

      Thanks George. It’s a deal!

  11. Karl

    Interestingly, when you look at the Cost Per Available Seat Mile (CASM),even a 600-seat A380-800, outfitted with new sharklets, would resoundly beat the 777-9.

    I chose to run a first-order economic analysis head-to-head between a 354-seat 777-300ER,370-seat 777-9, 517-seat A380 and a 600-seat A380++ for a representative route, Hong Kong – Frankfurt (A388++ equal to the current A380 – including sharklets and a 600-seat configuration – but not new engines). The great circle distance for that route is 4951nm. Operating cost calculations were based with a price of $2.5 per gallon, significantly higher than the 2017 spot prices.

    I calculated that the total fuel requirements would be 24447 gal. for the 77W, 20779 gal. for the 779, 39244 gal. for the A388 and 37281 gal. for an A388++. Mission cash operating cost is equal to fuel costs + crew costs + maintenance costs + navigation and landing costs; or $113618 for the 77W; $102447 for the 779; $162610 for the A388 and $158703 for an A388++. Dividing those figures by 4951nm and number of seats, we get the operating cost per seat, per nautical miles: $0.0648 for the 77W, $0.0559 for the 779, $0.0636 for the A388 and $0.0534 for an A388++.

    Interestingly, the operating cost per seat, per nautical mile would be about 4.5 percent lower for the A388++ than what it would be for the 777-9, while the A388 has about a two percent lower operating cost per seat than the 77W, while having a roughly 10 percent higher fiuel burn per seat.

    In order to obtain the total CASM, we first have to take into the discounted list price for the respective aircraft – and thereby the depreciation cost per month and per flight – which I set at $183 million for the 77W, $216million for the 779 and $254 million for the A388 and A388++.

    With a depreciation of 12 years and 50 flights per month per airframe – and adding the additional cost of insurance per flight, we get a direct operating cost per HKG-FRA flight of $148159 for the 777W; $142842 for the 779; $210585 for the A388 and $207078 for the A388++.

    Again, dividing those figures by 4951nm and number of seats, we get the Cost Per Available Seat Mile (CASM): $0.084 for the 77W; $0.078 for the 779; $0.082 for the A388 and $0.069 for the A380++.

    A 600-seat A388++ would have a 13 percent lower CASM than the 777-9. What is clear, though, is that it’s the combination of the significant increase in effective seating — while still maintaining a 10 abreast configuration in economy – and the less than 20 percent higher capital costss of the A388 vs. that of the 779, that seals the deal.

    It’s noteworthy, therefore , that while the current 517-seat A380-800 only has a 2.5 percent lower CASM than a 354-seat 777-300ER, a non re-engined, but sharkleted, 600-seat A380-800 would beat a 370-seat 777-9 by a 13 percent lower CASM. Of course, the delta in CASM would decrease at higher fuel costs and stage lengths, but I would not be surprised if Tim Clark would be quite happy ordering a chunk of three-class 600-seat A388++ aircraft that would have a 18 percent lower CASM than EK’s current three-class 517-seat A388s.

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