The Airbus A380plus vs Airbus A380 – What Plane Is Best?

Longtime readers of Simple Flying might remember that we discussed the possibility of Airbus going back to the drawing board on the A380, fitting it with neo improvements and creating an aircraft that could be quite attractive to airlines.

Lufthansa
Airbus launched the A380plus to try and reignite sales of the failing airliner. Photo: Airbus

But how would that aircraft compare to the current A380? And would it actually be better? Let’s investigate.

What was the A380plus?

The A380plus was a version of the A380 with some significant improvements. It was more of a redesign (like the A320neo to the A320) than a whole new generation (like the difference between the Boeing 737-800 and the 737 MAX 8).

Some of the proposed improvements were:

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  • Adding winglets to the ends of the A380 wings. The current A380 didn’t really have any winglets on the ends of its wings and thus suffered from drag that hampered fuel efficiency. By adding on stylish winglets, airlines could predict around 4% better fuel economy. This would reduce the cost of fuel per seat and thus allow the aircraft to be more cost-effective.
  • Additionally, the maximum takeoff weight of the aircraft would have been improved by three tonnes compared to the original, at around 578 in total.  This extra takeoff weight would have been useful to either stretch the fuselage, allowing more premium spaces (like the Etihad Residence which sells for around $29,000 USD per flight) or one of the two upgrades below.
  • Airlines could either choose two additional performance upgrades. The first was an offer of an additional 80 passengers. This would be done by reconfiguring the cabin space onboard, as well as improving the aircraft’s performance.  This would involve increasing the economy cabin from 10 seats across (a configuration of 3 – 4 – 3) to 11 (a configuration of 3 – 5 – 3).
  • The second mutually exclusive option was to improve on the A380s range. This would mean an additional 300 nautical miles (extending above the original’s range up to 8,500 nautical miles).

So what would the A380 look like if we compared it to side by side?

Singapore Airlines Business Class A380
Singapore Airlines A380 business class. Photo: Singapore Airlines

Comparing the two aircraft

If we were to match the two aircraft side by side, this is what we would notice:

  • A380 could transport 555 passengers to a range of 8,200 nautical miles.
  • A380plus could transport 635 OR the same number of passengers (555) 8,500 nautical miles.

It is easy to see that the 80 extra passengers would have been lucrative for airlines. However, an increase of 300 nautical miles is not really too exciting, unless the airline had some very specific route that could not be served by another aircraft.

Bottom line

Whilst this analysis has been pretty definitive, it’s no mistake that the A380 program on a whole had some flaws (even with an improved A380plus version proposed). The world was moving away from hub to hub travel, and towards point to point, better serviced by the A350 or A321XLR. The A380 was simply too inefficient, even with the plus improvements.

Fuel
The A380-800 was simply too fuel hungry to really be a more popular choice than other aircraft. Photo: Wikimedia

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

 

3 comments
  1. It’s a pity that Airbus didn’t make some form of attempt to re-engine the A380; they could have used RR TRENT 1000 /7000s or XWBs more-or-less “out of the box” without having to make too many modifications. That would have made the aircraft about 15% more fuel-efficient, and put it into a good position to compete with the 787 / 777X / A350 generation.
    I don’t accept that the A380 is by, definition, a hub-and-spoke aircraft. Its SUPREME comfort levels make it a wonderful aircraft for long-distance point-to-point. And it’s also a wonderful aircraft for slot-restricted, congested airports such as Heathrow and LAX. Slot restriction is going to become more common as environmental measures are taken by governments…as is already the case at Amsterdam, for example.
    Tim Clark (Emirates) says that he never understood how other airlines weren’t able to make a success of the A380. I agree with him.
    For all you A380-bashers out there: until you’ve flown in one, you haven’t a clue what true flight comfort is.

  2. “The world was moving away from hub to hub travel”
    IATA forecast said that air travel demands will continue to grow. What you mentioned above is demand redistribution, and so let’s not forget that the demands in hubs are growing as well.
    By all means, they will be back in around 10 years, as airports will get congested and overwhelming amount of passengers. With this being said, we will be able to see A380neo even!
    And yes at a certain period of time, point to point will be served by an A380!

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