The Airbus A380 is the world’s biggest commercial passenger aircraft, seating on average 555 passengers in three different classes, and up to 800 in a horrible all-economy configuration. But… Airbus was not satisfied with this capacity, and drew up plans for an A380 stretch, capable of carrying over a 1000 passengers.
Let us explore what could have been…
What was the Airbus A380 stretch?
After the A380 was released to the market in 2000, Airbus proposed an A380-200 stretch that would bump the seats from 555 to 656 in a three class layout.
But then, in 2007, Airbus proposed a further extension of the A380-800 (dubbed the -900) that would include 650 seats in a three-class format and up to 900 in an all-economy configuration.
Several airlines jumped to express interest, including:
- Emirates, who would go on to operate the largest A380 fleet in the world.
- Virgin Atlantic
- Cathay Pacific
- Air France
- Kingfisher Airlines
- And several air leasing companies
Airbus, unfortunately, had to park these proposed orders until they could deliver on the original A380-800 variant.
With the launch of the NEO program for the A320, Airbus returned to plans of the Airbus A380 stretch. They proposed that, once they had developed an A380 neo and improved the fuel efficiency of the aircraft, they would also offer the A380-900.
Rumors have it that Airbus was also considering an A380-1000 stretch, that would have had 200 more seats than the A380-800, pushing just over 1,000 passengers. It is likely that an airline would have gone for this goal even just for the prestigious award of having the highest capacity aircraft in the world.
But, as fate would have it, the A380 was slowly wound down and retired, so the plans for a massive A380 would never come to fruition.
Why was it never built?
Simply, the lack of demand for the type was the primary reason why Airbus never offered the A380-900. They could not sustain the A380 program let alone a bigger version.
Some aviation commentators suggest that Airbus should have offered the A380-900 from the get-go, rather than the smaller A380-800. This would have placed the aircraft in a better competitive position to the 747-8 and the 777X.
Who would have bought it?
There are actually very few markets where the A380 stretch would have been useful.
The first was China. With such a huge population and plans to build over 200 airports over the next two years, a large capacity aircraft like the A380 stretch would have done wonders. Routes like Beijing to Shanghai that are incredibly dense would have benefitted from such a massive aircraft.
Secondly, India could have been a great location for the aircraft to operate. Like China, their population and demand for air travel could have justified such a large plane. Additionally, India has one of the most cutthroat airfare markets and could have benefited from the incredibly low fuel burn per seat on the A380 stretch.
Holidaymakers on popular routes such as Seoul’s Gimpo Airport to Jeju, an island off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula (the most heavily trafficked route in the world with 13.4 million travelers in 2018) could have deployed the A380 stretch to good effect.
Lastly, airlines that provide transport for the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca would have most definitely bought the A380 stretch. Airlines like Malaysia Airlines, Lion Air and others in principaly Muslim countries (like Malaysia and Indonesia) would have opted for the all-economy configuration to transport as many of the faithful as possible. And these passengers would have been satisfied with this dense configuration too, as the journey to Mecca is supposed to an arduous test of your faith.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments if you would have flown on the A380 stretch!