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

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 A380Β 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.

Heathrow
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.

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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.

london-sydney-which-airline
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.

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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James

Quite honestly I don’t see the point in such far-fetched and frankly useless comparisons – the A380 is not, and never has been a rival for the 787. I’m sure Norwegian conducted lots of research before choosing on an aircraft type and they evidently concluded (and rightly so) that the 787 was the right aircraft for them – had they felt the A380 was best they would have ordered it.

Tom Boon

Hey James, Thanks for your feedback. We’ll bare it in mind for the future. Given that Norwegian are wet-leasing an Airbus A380, I personally don’t believe its too far fetched to take a look at the differences between the two in this instance.

Nigel

A perfectly valid comparison exercise. After all, there are airlines that have both aircraft types in their fleets (such as BA and Qantas), and they need to choose which aircraft to put on which route. One assumes that they do that on the basis of a comparison of merits, rather than by tossing a coin.

Paul proctor

Apples and oranges comparison due to pax capacity. A380 is too hard to fill and is being phased out. A380 doesn’t even sell on second-hand market at deeply discounted prices.

jimh

no mention of a direct acquisition cost comparison and then factor in the fact that any profitability calculation is predicated on filling either aircraft. It’s twice as hard to fill an A380 and a half empty A380 is far worse than an half empty 787 Also no mention of versatility (= flexibility). You can land a 787 at most standard commercial airports. The A380 really only makes sense in major hub links (NY, London, Dubai, Tokyo etc.) when you can fill it up (underline). If you go to flightaware.com and look at the world-wide map of how many flights are… Read more »

Dan

Airlines are starting to set dates of when to end their A380 use.. and just starting to get their new 787s

Nigel

Qatar already want to offload their 787s to Air Italy, and focus on the A350 instead πŸ˜‰

Viking

Troll. Give us link to the facts. 787 Dreamliner is still light years ahead of A350.

Nigel

https://onemileatatime.com/air-italy-expansion/
Note, in particular, the text:
“At that point, Air Italy will begin the process of leasing 30 Boeing 787s from Qatar Airways, which will progressively be added to their fleet”

Mike Teleborian

Facepalm. Go check your facts dude, you seem to have your head stuck in the Boeing propaganda machine.

Paul proctor

citation please.

Paul Proctor

Pops, sorry, I mean a citation from a well- known, respected journal like AvWeek or Flight International.

Viking

The 787 is 25% more fuel efficient than the A380 and 10 percent better than the best on offer by the competition. The 787 no-airbleed systems architecture means no nasty cancer causing carcinogenic fumes in the cabin air from the engines. Passengers on the 787 will feel like they’re breathing at 6,000 feet rather than the 8,000 feet atmosphere of other aircraft. This helps reduce jet lag, headaches and fatigue. The wings of the Boeing 787 are so flexible because its carbon fiber material can be stretched more, and the high aspect ratio of 11 will magnify this effect. In… Read more »

Mike Teleborian

What’s your point? That you have good memory? Congratulations, my grandpa too seems to remember easier details from 20-30 years ago than 2-3 days ago. Refresh your memory: what’s the manufacturer of the three fatal crashes over the last months (including the Amazon air B767, which didn’t get that much news reporting, probably in the light of the other two tragedies). Regarding two pilots pulling the stick in opposite directions: is this a practice recommend by the manual, or is it a violation of the recommendations? In our industry is all about respecting the rules. If you don’t, then the… Read more »

Nigel

Remember that Boeing airplanes need the yoke rather than a joystick, because physical strength is needed to pull the metal cables that run over pulleys between the cockpit and the control surfaces, and a yoke offers more leverage for that purpose. Whether one should be proud of this Victorian technology, or ashamed that it’s still being used in the modern era, is up for debate πŸ˜‰ But, then again, the MAX debacle has shown us what happens when Boeing tries to update its technology; it seems that basic software-based control theory is over their heads. Maybe MCAS 2.0 will use… Read more »

sfgj

Another facepalm.

You don’t seriously think that Boeing planes require physical strength to move the control forces do you?

All control surfaces are hydraulically operated as no human would have the strength to move control surfaces against the aerodynamic forces on planes this big.

Also, the 787 is fly by wire so it doesn’t have cables and pulleys.

Nigel

Boeing’s latest-and-greatest 737 MAX is not fly-by-wire…the control yokes are still used to pull 12mm cables over pulleys. We were reminded recently of physical strength issues with the trim wheel in the 737 MAX…remember? πŸ˜‰
Same, of course, with the archaic 757 and 767, which are still flying.
The control yokes in the 777 and 787 hearken back to that time…a dinosaur remnant in the modern era.

Trent

Hey guys, lets compare two aircraft that are completely dissimilar.

Tom Boon

Hey Trent, Thanks for your feedback. We’ll bare it in mind for the future. Given that Norwegian are wet-leasing an Airbus A380, I personally don’t believe its too far fetched to take a look at the differences between the two in this instance.

Keith Alloway

Love the 380 over any aircraft, Business class is the best it can get especially with Emirates ! No bar in the 787 s !!

Patrick Le Floch

If size of window is irrelevant, the wing surface is prly too.

Mike Teleborian

A380 is an engineering masterpiece, B787 is just another twin engine aircraft with plenty of issues, sold as the first not-very-noisy-Boeing but it’s still noisy. End of story. πŸ™‚

Paul proctor

Wait. A380s is an upsized 747., maybe more quiet inside. The 787 is an all-composite aircraft with advanced systems such as no bleed-air cabin environment and lower cabin altitude. It also downlinks a ton of operational data. And the A350’s is just a follow-on.

Mike Teleborian

LOL, you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. A380 has all of these and many others that Being will sell them in the near future as something revolutionary (as always), preparing the ground for the already planned A350 at that time. See also my other comments below.
While you have time, I kindly recommend you to give it a try and check it for yourself how comfortable and quiet it can be — I’ve been on all commercial aircrafts, nothing comes even remotely close. Maybe A350, but still.

Nigel

Using the same reasoning: a 787 is an upsized 737 πŸ˜‰

kdgh

What makes the A380 a masterpiece? It didn’t bring any significantly new technology to the industry. It also had plenty of issues, was delayed and over budget.

The 787 is not just another plane. It brought a number of signicant changes to airliner design

Mike Teleborian

You’re wrong: all the fancy things A350 and B787 such as composite materials and many others have been initially developed on A380.

Flying a giant like that is in itself a masterpiece. For instance, an empty A380 is heavier than a full B747 MTOW. Think about it.
Also the brilliant wing design that allows for low speed approaches. Things like this make it a masterpiece. Oh, it wasn’t sufficiently marketed – that’s a separate issue. πŸ˜‰

kfgh

A380 is only 22% composite, the 787 is more than double that. What fancy things were developed on the A380? Yes we know the A380 is heavy. That’s why it’s uneconomical. It’s too heavy for the number of passengers it can carry. Just being big doesn’t mean it’s great. It does have a slightly lower approach speed than many other jets due to the oversized wing. In reality, that is not an advantage as any airport with runways and taxiways and gates that are capable of fitting the A380 size and weight will have a runway long enough to sustain… Read more »

Larry Walker

Having delivered both these aircraft to airlines, would say that from purely a passenger perspective, regardless of the cabin trim, the A380 is clearly superior when it comes to quietness of the aircraft. That extra insulation does indeed work and regardless of what airlines may think, it does make a difference not to have that incredible friction noise permeate the aircraft all the time. The A380 is the only aircraft except perhaps the whisper jet from DAC that delivers an almost surreal quietness at altitude. No question that the downfall of the A380 is it’s fuel economy, with Emirates trying… Read more »

Nigel

Also a much higher ceiling in the A380, lower sensitivity to turbulence, and wider economy seats πŸ™‚
And very important: physical window blinds that produce real darkness, rather than LED-based dimming that still allows an alarming quantity of light into the cabin.

ExPatBrit

1500 orders for 787, still in production. A380 is about 20% of that and going out of production.

I have flown Norwegian many times, I doubt if they or their customers care much about showers and first class suites.

If Hi-fly offered an option for wet leasing a 787 or 350, or any wide body twin-jet Norwegian would opt for that.

Paul proctor

Agree.

krl

787 in it’s current form should sell strongly for another 20 years, then it’ll probably get refresh with new engines and continue selling for another 20 years.

Mark P

The 787 would be a much nicer ride if airlines set it up with 8 across instead of 9. On that basis it feels crammed and cattle like. The 380 at least feels not so jammed. I avoid the 787 and prefer the 350 as it was built for 9 across if thats an option, but would take the 380 by first choice.

Andrew Boydston

Market fit for duration mitigates risks when using the 786-10 product. A key Boeing objective when selling to the market place. Comparing the “white elephant”, A-380 with the 787 miscarries the purpose of each concept. The A-380 was a stuff the Bus attempt including more insulation where Boeing went the lean, mean market machine with the 787 including efficiency as you already concede the A-380 uses fuel but gives the passengers reward for fuel used (space). The market reality is filling five hundred seats viable each time for the A-380? Or is filling 300 seats for the 787-10 a better… Read more »

Gerry

At the start of the article, you mentioned that the 787 has been grounded because of engine problem. then, why would you still trust a plane that has the history of an engine problem? people would always consider first and formost their safety in flying.

kdghk

People don’t consider that at all.

Also it’s only the Rolls Royce powered 787s that were grounded. The GE powered ones were not.

Besides, the A380 has also been grounded in the past due to engine problems – also from Rolls Royce. And some A320 Neos have been grounded due to P&W engine problems. The 777X is delayed due to problems with GE engines. So you’re big 3 propulsion manufacturers all have problems of some sorts. Blacklist them all and you won’t be able to go on any jet airliners.

Nigel

The GEnx engines have a known icing problem.

chjl

Something that becomes very obvious when one looks closely at those specifications is that the A380 is overweight. I think it’s better to compare the -9 so the range is closer to the A380. That gives the same MTOW as the -10 but with only 280 passengers. Using the same comparison site and dividing the MTOW by the number of passengers and what do you get? The A380 carries 1048kgs of weight per passenger for a range of 8100NM The 787-9 carries 902kgs of weight per passenger for a BIGGER range of 8313NM So the A380 carries a whopping 146kgs… Read more »

Nigel

Now do the same math with an 8-abreast Dreadliner instead of a 9-abreast Dreadliner…and you start to get an extra 11% weight per passenger. So, for example, your 902 kg now becomes 1001 kg.
That’s why airlines configure the Dreadliner with 9-across instead of 8-across…it’s not economical enough if they don’t.

kghjk

Nigel, 1001kgs per seat weight of a 8 across 787 is still well below the A380 on 1049kgs.

An extra 48kgs per passenger multipled by hundreds of passengers really adds up.

And we haven’t even touched on the better aerodynmanics, more efficient bleedless engines and lower maintenance of the 787.

The 787 is more economical for all normal configurations.

Nigel

A well-known difference between the A380 and the Dreadliner is, of course, that: – Lots of people go out of their way in order to fly on an A380 (including a certain well-known US executive); – On the other hand, lots of people go out of their way to avoid flying on the Dreadliner. Just look at the wonderful PR generated by links such as these: https://runwaygirlnetwork.com/2015/01/22/opinion-why-i-tell-people-to-avoid-flying-on-a-787/ https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g1-i10702-k9453773-o10-BA_Dreamliners_uncomfortable_economy_seats-Air_Travel.html https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i10702-k8838406-British_Airways_Dreamliner_cramped_in_economy-Air_Travel.html And, of course, the Boeing boys will say that it’s the fault of the airline rather than the airframe, because the Dreadliner was designed with 8 seats per row, and it’s… Read more »

Dan
Nigel
Deathb

Nigel, do you know what even more people go out of their way to fly with?

Cheap airfares.

And they have a better chance of getting that on a 787 even if it’s 8 across as it’s still more economical to fly.

Nigel

Emirates have very low airfares…and they fly lots of A380s πŸ™‚

sfgj

..and they’re the only one.

Some Flyer

They’re the ONLY airlines that has a tone of A380s in their fleet you crazy fanboy. Everyone else is already dumping them because they aren’t as cost effective.

Kaden

This must be a great article with all those comments! πŸ˜‰

Kris

Much as I appreciate some 787 features, I prefer the A380 for passenger comfort by wide margin. I’m an economy class flyer, and the narrow 787 economy seats the airlines have chosen are no match for the wider A380 economy seats. And the QUIET cabin on the A380 is unmatched. More than once I have been astonished at how quiet the A380 is at takeoff power. In the airline I’m flying has a rear upper deck economy cabin, that’s even quieter with the bonus of those side storage cabinets.

Richard

Bit of a weird comparison.
Surely it should be 747-8 vs A380 & 787 vs A350?

Tom Boon

Hey Richard, The two were compared as Norwegian was using Hi Fly’s Airbus A380 in lieu of its Boeing 787.

Gerald Brady

I don’t think that a fair comparison can be made between these two planes. The B787 is comparable to the A350. The A380 has no peers. It is the quietest and most comfortable plane around. Unfortunately it isn’t easy to fill that many seats although the last one that I flew on (Etihad) was full but that is uncommon in my experience.

Donal

Err. Do any of the people posting actually fly on these planes because I do and a lot. I fly business class and once Premium Economy. The Dreamliner has been late or cancelled 100% of the time due to technical issues such as the coms aerial falling off, galley leaking and causing icing, etc. It also has almost run out of fuel from HK to Mel. On board, for example, the fold away trays are buckling and jam when 6 months old, no wifi on some planes, all in all the 787’s are poorly built and are falling apart in… Read more »