The Airbus A380plus: The Superjumbo That Never Was

The Airbus A380plus is the aircraft that could have made a real change to the lifespan of the A380, and yet, it never made it to production. With Airbus shutting down A380 assembly lines, we take a look at the superjumbo jet that never was.

A380 on show at PAS
The A380plus was planned to enhance the efficiency and profitability of the A380. Photo: Airbus

In recent months, it seems there has been no end to news regarding the airline-wide phasing out of the A380. Citing issues of profitability alongside a reduced demand for air travel, the aircraft is one that has largely had its heyday. Rather than continuing operations with the superjumbo, many airlines are now opting for smaller, more streamlined fleets.

Of course, there are some exceptions. Those carriers that continue to operate the A380 could have been potential future owners of the A380plus. However, it wasn’t to be.

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Why improve on the A380?

It was back in June 2017 that Airbus announced that it was conducting a development study on the A380plus, an enhanced version of the existing A380. As the largest aircraft in operation with a focus on excellent passenger comfort, Airbus believed that the A380plus would be a success.

Airbus A380plus
The A380plus was designed without compromising passenger comfort. Photo: Airbus

The airframer planned for the A380plus to alleviate some of the cost and maintenance implications of owning an A380. It looked specifically at reducing fuel costs as well as increasing passenger capacity on the aircraft. In addition, it hoped to create a model that had better maintenance resulting in further cost savings.

All in all, the A380plus was going to be bigger and better and cheaper. It would have hit a lot of the pain points of its predecessor without compromising passenger satisfaction.

What would the A380plus have looked like?

In terms of exterior differences, the A380plus would not have looked much different. However, Airbus did plan to create enhanced winglets. They would have been larger to reduce drag and consequently provide a 4% saving in fuel burn costs.

A380plus enhance winglets
Larger winglets would have contributed to a 4% reduced fuel burn. Photo: Airbus

New owners of the variant would also have saved money on passenger seating. With an additional 80 seats thanks to feats of cabin engineering, the reconfigured A380plus would have provided a 13% cost reduction per seat. Rather than 497 seats at maximum capacity, the A380plus would boast 575 seats across four classes.

And, if that wasn’t enough, the aircraft was also intended to operate a more extended range. Airbus had hoped to add 300 nautical miles to the A380plus to offer a maximum range of 8,200nm.

Would the Airbus A380plus have worked?

Airbus’ is a great theory. In essence, the aircraft resolves many of the issues that would have previously hindered an airline investing in an A380. In a press release from June 17th, 2017, Airbus said,

“With two full widebody decks, offering [the] widest seats, wide aisles, and more floor space, the A380 has the unique capability to generate revenue, stimulate traffic, and attract the flying public…”

Airbus A380plus close-up
Emirates was the ideal customer but the airline didn’t want to model. Photo: Airbus

The Airbus A380plus would have capitalized on this vision. So, who would have been interested? Well, anyone’s first thought might be Emirates. However, despite owning the largest fleet of A380 in the world, the Middle-Eastern carrier had its reservations.

Speaking to UK Aviation News at the time, the CEO of Emirates Tim Clarke said that he had “never been a big fan” of the A380plus. The truth is that the Airbus A380plus would have improved A380 operations in the correct places. Cost savings and improved capacity are definitely big wins, but did Airbus do enough to make sure this aircraft would have been a success?

What do you think? Have your say in the comments.