The enhancements contained in the Airbus A380 Plus study shown at the Paris Air Show overnight will add around 80 passengers or 300 nautical miles range to the capabilities of the world’s largest airliner.
But it is a claimed 13 percent reduction in operating costs compared to the current production A380 that will undoubtedly take the attention of airlines, and particularly so for those flying routes to congested airports using limited landing slots and delay prone air corridors.
The most striking feature of the A380 Plus externally are the scimitar type winglets, which make the wing more efficient, while inside, a range of options arise for airlines depending on how they rearrange the internal stairs and other cabin ‘monuments’.
Some airlines might want to try an 11 abreast seating section in the main deck economy section, but it yields only an additional 23 seats in the guidance now available, and would be more than capable of discouraging at least that number of customers from ever flying that way again.
The good news on seating is however that there is no reduction in the actual width available to economy passengers in the ten across main deck seats on the A380. An A380 will never be as fiendishly tight in terms of hip space as an A330 configured nine across (instead of the usual eight across) or a 787 where most operators have unfortunately chosen a nine across configuration that Boeing never thought anyone would order back when the Dreamliners had shark fin tails and windows that looked like ocean liner cabin portholes. (Sigh!).
It’s immediately obvious looking into the A380 Plus that there is a whole matrix of possibilities for airlines to exploit, including improvements in premium cabins, and variations as to how economy capacity could be increased, or room provided for innovations in premium economy offerings.
The actual gains in capacity could vary considerably, where yield or profit per sale might be the more important consideration than total numbers of passengers. The proposed enhancements show what can be done with a mature airframe like an A380 even without using new technology engine options or significantly changing wing design, as seen in the forthcoming Boeing 777-X series.
An important question remains unanswered. Will the ultimate ultra long range jet that could for example, fly Sydney or Melbourne non-stop against headwinds to London, be something of the size and amenity of an A380 or a jet with far fewer seats and two engines? Both answers are possible, and might be known within less than ten years.