The A380 program has not been a resounding success for Airbus. On the contrary, sales have stalled and the wisdom of creating such a large aircraft is often questioned. But Airbus is digging in. In an attempt to save the program, Airbus is considering an even DENSER version of its whale jet.
Two changes are under consideration for a model dubbed A380-Plus. Gulf News reports that Airbus is considering ditching the iconic “grand staircase” on its super jumbo jet, a move that would somehow squeeze in 40-50 more passengers. The circular staircase in the rear of the aircraft would also be retooled. Secondly, Airbus would modify the A380 wingtips to achieve greater fuel efficiency. The result: lower operating costs.
Airbus is not interested in discussing this, stating, “Airbus is always studying opportunities to improve our aircraft” but refusing to address the rumors specifically. Then again, Airbus sales chief John Leahy stated, “The time will come for the A380.”
If you’ll indulge me playing armchair CEO for a moment, I think the Airbus A380 program was a mistake. No carrier is ordering this plane (voluntarily at least) and for good reason: few routes can profitably support a cabin with so many seats. Making the plane a bit more fuel efficient and squeezing more seats into the same space does not solve the bigger issue: the four-engine behemoth is expensive to operate compared to other alternatives. If not, why would there not be more new orders?
Doesn’t the A380 project betray a worldview in which hubs would dominate rather than direct flights? By embarking on the 787 program instead of its own super jumbo, Boeing bet the opposite: that a smaller, more efficient aircraft would open up new direct markets. As the Gulf Carriers struggle, it appears that Boeing’s vision won out.
The A380 is my favorite aircraft. I love flying on it and rarely miss the chance to choose it over even the 747 if I have a choice. But consumer comfort doesn’t mean the project was smart. I have strong doubts about a revitalized A380 program that will squeeze even more passengers in and remove the beautiful interior features that make the A380 unique.