Could The Airbus A380 Be Redesigned To Make It Profitable?

Many readers were saddened to hear the news that the A380 was to be discontinued. Airlines simply fell out of love with the aircraft, claiming that it was too expensive to run and too hard to fill up. But if the A380 were to be redesigned, could it be made profitable and attractive to carriers?

Airbus A380
Airbus has already designed a better A380. Could it be made profitable? Photo: Wikimedia

What are the problems with the A380?

Let’s begin by looking at the key issues airlines had with the A380 and why they made moves to replace or cancel their orders.

  • Capacity is too large. Whilst it is undoubtedly impressive that the A380 can carry 525 passengers in a standard three-class configuration (and over 800 in an all-economy variant), more passengers means more seats to fill in order for the aircraft to be profitable. With so much capacity on each aircraft, there was not much room left for other aircraft from the same airline to operate on the route. This means less frequency (you can see us debate the topic here) and less passenger flexibility.
  • Lack of routes. Touching on the above point, there are only so many routes in the world that can support a super-jumbo aircraft like the A380. Similarly, not many airports are even configured to take the aircraft, as modifications are required to things like taxiways, gates, and runways.
  • The A380 is heavy. Coming in at 277 tonnes, the A380 is a massive aircraft that requires four powerful engines to get it off the ground. These engines are fuel guzzling and require a huge amount of expensive jet fuel for each flight.
  • Lack of second-hand market. Flag carriers like to have new planes. Any plane over 10 years old starts to make them a little nervous, and they want to be able to replace them with a new aircraft when the time comes. The problem is, what to do with the older A380s? Singapore is starting to retire the aircraft (and replace them with A350s) but thus far had trouble finding buyers, with Hi Fly being one of the only airlines to pick one up.
A380
Singapore has started to move their fleet away from A380s. Photo: Wikimedia

Thus these flaws need to be addressed in any sort of… A380neo version.

What would an A380neo look like?

Airbus has already floated the idea of an A380neo or A380plus. They list the following improvements over the original:

  • Better engines, such as the new engine rumored to be coming out in 2025
  • Winglets to reduce drag, saving up to 4% on fuel
  • An additional 50 passengers onboard, allowing the airline to generate more profit
  • Improvements from the A350 fuel pump and entertainment system would be converted over, to save on weight
A350-1000
Why not take several improvements from the A350 and incorporate them into the A380? Photo: lynothehammer1978 via Flickr

But here at Simple Flying, we think we could take it a step further and introduce our own features.

  • A composite structure like the A350 or Boeing 787. By changing its construction material from solid metal to composites, the aircraft could be made much lighter (by up to 30-40%) and save a fortune in fuel
  • Folding wings. Like the Boeing 777X, by having larger wings (and thus cheaper to fly) that fold up when taxiing, the aircraft could fly to many more destinations not normally configured for an A380.

This would, unfortunately, make the aircraft more expensive to buy, but if placed on the correct route it could make a lot of money.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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