The A380 undoubtedly holds the record for the largest passenger aircraft ever, but did you know Airbus considered stretching the plane further? This stretched version would feature a bizarre 900 seats in an all-economy configuration. Here’s the story of the larger A380 variant that never made it to the production line.
The bigger, the better
Airbus imagined a very different market for the A380 when it was first launched the program. The manufacturer believed that the superjumbo would be extremely popular with airlines, and passenger demand would actually exceed seating capacity on some routes. This idea translated in Airbus first announcing an A380-200 in 2000, which would have 100 more seats than the A380-800.
By the time the first A380 took to the skies in 2007, Airbus once again proposed this larger variant. Dubbed the A380-900 this time, the plane would feature 650 seats in a standard configuration (compared to the 555 on the -800) and up to 900 seats in an all-economy cabin layout.
The A380 stretch is one of many proposed variants that Airbus seriously considered but did not proceed with due to business considerations (like the A380plus). However, that’s not to say that the A380-900 was not popular among airlines.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Airlines loved it
Back in the 2000s, airlines were actually onboard with the idea of a larger, higher capacity A380. The list of interested carriers included Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, and even India’s now-bankrupt Kingfisher!
The idea of a larger A380 made sense for slot-restricted airports like London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol. For airlines operating the hub-and-spoke model, having more seats was usually a boon for business on key routes. While airlines were interested, they did not indicate how many of the A380-900 they would order.
It should be known that despite all these carriers showing interest in the larger A380, many did not go on to order the A380 or have scrapped their fleets. Cathay Pacific and KLM never ordered the superjumbo, while Air France and Lufthansa scrapped their fleets in 2020 due to the downturn.
Airbus held back
While Airbus was excited to put out new variants of the A380, it held off doing so for several reasons. In 2010, executives announced that the stretched superjumbo would be temporarily shelved due to production issues with A380-800 and investments in the A350 program.
However, the most pressing reason had to do with the low demand for the A380. Airlines simply weren’t convinced by the plane’s potential and the whole program only garnered 251 orders in total, a majority of which came from one carrier.
While an A380 stretch would have been a unique aircraft to fly on, it’s clear that the aviation industry is heading a different way. However, if airlines do suddenly want a 900-seat plane, Airbus has some plans at the ready!
What do you think about the A380 stretch? Did the plane have any chance at success? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!