The Airbus A380 Vs Boeing 787 – Which Plane Is Best?

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When Norweigan’s Boeing 787’s were grounded due to engine issues, the international low-cost-carrier turned to the Airbus A380 as their perfect replacement aircraft (kindly supplied by wet-lease airline Hi Fly). If Norwegian was given the chance to permanently use an A380 in their fleet, would they? Which aircraft serves them best? Let’s find out.

A380 vs 787. Photo: Wikimedia

How will we compare the aircraft?

There is only one type of Airbus A380 (unless Airbus decides to not only relaunch the A380 program but also to commit to an A380 plus design) and three types of Boeing 787s. The key difference between each of the 787s is simply range and payload capacity. Thus we will compare the largest 787, the 787-10, vs the Airbus A380.

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A British Airways A380 takes off from London. Photo: Heathrow Airport

We will not be focusing on items like comfort or the bigger windows on the 787, as although these are excellent for passengers, they don’t really contribute much to the airline’s bottom line.

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Airbus A380 vs Boeing 787

At first, you might think that this is a very easy question and that one of these aircraft is a clear winner, but the real answer is a little more complex.

Airbus A380-800VSBoeing 787-10
73.00 m239 ft 6 inLength68.27 m224 ft
79.80 m261 ft 10 inWingspan60.17 m197 ft 5 in
845.00 m29,096 ft2Wing area347.00 m23,735 ft2
24.10 m79 ft 1 inHeight17.00 m55 ft 9 in
4Engines2
334 kN75,152 lbfThrust per engine338 kN76,000 lbf
1,336 kN300,608 lbfTotal thrust676 kN152,000 lbf
548,000 kgs1,208,000 lbsMTOW252,651 kgs557,000 lbs
15,000 km8,100 nmRange13,001 km7,021 nm
M0.85Cruise speedM0.85
525 passengersCapacity323 passengers

*Information sourced from Aviator Joe

Passenger count

Looking at passengers, we can see that the A380 can easily carry more than any 787. With 525 in a standard configuration (and up to 800 if the aircraft is configured for all economy seats) the A380 wins hands down compared to the Boeing 787-10 with only 323 passengers.

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Plus, let us not forget all the extra items that you can fit into an A380, such as first-class cabins, bar areas, and even showers.

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Etihad’s A380 ‘The Residence’. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Range

Surprisingly, the bigger A380 also has a bigger range than the 787-10. For comparison’s sake, we should also mention the range of the other 787s:

  • Boeing 787-8: 7,846 nm
  • Boeing 787-9: 8,313 nm

The Boeing 787-9 has a bigger range than the A380 by around 300 nautical miles. But on paper, the A380’s range makes it a far more flexible aircraft for airlines than the Boeing 787.

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Fuel

The A380 has one of the best ‘fuel-burn-per-seat’ ratios in the sky today. With so many seats and passengers onboard, it’s no wonder than the cost per individual passenger is so low.

However, those four wing-mounted engines plus the sheer weight of the aircraft makes the aircraft one of the hungriest for fuel. Airlines (such as Qantas) have decided to phase out the aircraft for the Dreamliner as rising fuel prices dictate the future of the aviation industry.

Which is best?

Both aircraft have a place in the world. The A380 is designed for long-range hub to hub flights, whilst the 787 series is perfect for more bespoke direct routes away from hubs. But the 787 has been built with fuel efficiency in mind and it shows when comparing final numbers.

ANA Star Wars Livery
ANA has painted some impressive Star Wars liveries on its 787 aircraft. Photo: blackqualis via Wikimedia

The A380, despite all the passenger space, is harder to make profitable than the 787 series and one of the major reasons why the aircraft is slowly being retired.

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

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