The A380, nicknamed the ‘superjumbo’, has made a significant impact on the long-haul market since its entry-into-service in October 2007. For most airlines, it’s the flagship of the fleet – thanks to its ability to introduce new levels of passenger comfort into the flying experience. In all onboard classes, the cabin feels more spacious, and passengers frequently take to social media to share their A380 flights, if only to appreciate the giant-size of the jet. An Airbus study noted that 20% of passengers are ready to pay $100 more to fly on an A380, and when I speak to passengers — they’re often quick to share stories with me about their A380 experiences, with most reminiscing positively about their journey.
For the manufacturer, the A380 hasn’t been the smooth-sailing success they originally hoped for. The aircraft was introduced amid a deep downturn in the airline business, and even now — airlines opt for several other economically safer aircraft options when ordering planes, rather than be stuck with an aircraft equipped with 500 seats…whereby most flights will not break even if there isn’t a huge demand for passengers on the route.
While the A380 has frequently lost out to smaller, but more efficient twin-engine jets…are its best days still ahead?
Passenger air traffic has doubled every 15 years since the early 1980’s, and the world’s population are flying more than ever before. As a result, most megacity airports are heavily congested, with airport slots being a nearly priceless resource. The reality is that airlines are unable to accommodate passenger demand at peak times, and while there may be a demand for 500 passengers wishing to fly from London-Doha (and then onwards) at 09:00 am on a Friday — the only way to take on that demand is with a larger aircraft. With this in mind, the A380 can maximise revenue for airlines by essentially ‘seizing’ the strong passenger flow at the highest yield times.
At Hong Kong International Airport, one of Asia’s busiest hubs, a plane lands or takes off every minute; but the airport is built on reclaimed land so expanding isn’t currently an option. Instead, the aviation authorities now routinely persuade airlines to bring more passengers in and out on larger aircraft like the A380 — a solution to its congested skies.
The busiest airport in Europe, London Heathrow, is full. The airport’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye says “We need to have the largest aeroplanes operating from our airport to be able to serve more passengers, and that is what the A380 does. It’s the largest plane in the world, and it helps us serve more passengers on very busy routes out of Heathrow and it also frees up slots to serve new routes in North America, South America and Asia that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to serve”
Airlines in the Middle East and Asia have already demonstrated the effectiveness of the A380 for their respective hub airports, but there’s no denying the fact that the future of the world’s passenger jets is a twin-aisle, single deck, twin-engine aircraft. Jets such as the A350 XWB and Boeing 787 deliver better economic efficiency, combined with superior performance, range, and capabilities. If the A380 has a unique selling point in 2018 and going forward, it’s capacity. But the industry isn’t demanding higher capacity jets for at least five years, and the A380 order book remains static, for now…