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.