The Airbus A380plus & A380neo – Was There A Future?

The Airbus A380 program was short enough that the world only got the A380-800. But what if Airbus had gone ahead with plans to build a plus version of the A380? How would it change aviation, and would it have saved the program?

Airbus A380
The Airbus A380plus offered various improvements to the model. Photo: Airbus

What was the A380plus?

There were actually a few different versions of the A380 on the drawing board when the A380 entered the market. Without going into detail they were:

After the A380 had been on the market for a few years, Airbus revised the original design into a ‘plus’ version of the aircraft that offered various improvements.

  • 80 additional seats onboard
  • An increase of 300 nautical miles (if kept at the same passenger capacity)
  • Better fuel savings and revenue for airlines
A380plus enhance winglets
Larger winglets would have contributed to a 4% reduced fuel burn. Photo: Airbus

“The A380plus is an efficient way to offer even better economics and improved operational performance at the same time.” John Leahy, Airbus COO Customers back in 2017, explains

“It is a new step for our iconic aircraft to best serve worldwide fast-growing traffic and the evolving needs of the A380 customers. The A380 is well-proven as the solution to increasing congestion at large airports, and in offering a unique, passenger-preferred experience. ”

Alas, the plus program never got any orders, and never went ahead, and Airbus has planned the shut down of the A380 line. 

Would have the A380neo saved the program?

Speaking to FlightGlobal yesterday, the CEO of Emirates Tim Clark, the biggest operator of the A380, lamented what could have been with the A380neo.

“We got very close to getting the Neo done, which I still believe has a place today, post-COVID, in the 2025-plus timeframe,”

Had the program gone ahead, Emirates, with its large order book of Airbus A380s at the time would have been able to steer the direction of the model. If the team had offered the A380neo, it could have offered staggering double-digit fuel savings well beyond the 4% prediction from Airbus.

Emirates, Airbus A380, Guangzhou
Emirates has the largest fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft. Photo: Emirates

“Had the Trent XWB, as the baseline engine for the A380neo, been developed to where Rolls told us it would be, we were talking about a step-change in consumption – the usual thing about a 12-14% in fuel [burn].”

This would have dramatically reduced the seat price for Emirates, and with a new 11-seat across economy cabin, made flying for all across the world so much better.

Lastly, acting in the current crisis that we have today, it is possible that the fuel savings would have made the massive A380 more profitable to operate for longer and kept the favor of airlines like Air France. 

What do you think? Would the improvements to the A380 program have saved the airframe? Let us know in the comments.