Would US Domestic Airbus A380 Flights Be Feasible?

The A380 is one of the most interesting commercial aircraft ever produced. Although it was not a huge success (depending on who you ask, that is), the aircraft never really found a place in the United States. American carriers turned away from large, four-engine aircraft in favor of fuel-efficient twinjets. But, would A380 domestic flights be feasible?

Airbus A380
The A380 is an iconic aircraft, but noticeably absent from the fleet of United States carriers. Photo: Airbus

Coast-to-coast travel

The A380 would only work on high-demand routes. One of the most prominent examples would be between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco. However, these markets are already pretty saturated with plenty of carriers offering convenient levels of frequency.

However, several carriers do operate widebodies on this route. These include 767s and 787-10s. Compared to these, the A380 would have been a huge capacity upgrade that could easily cover the equivalent of two daily frequencies.

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A380
The A380 is known for high capacity and a relatively spacious cabin. Photo: Airbus

Outside the coast to coast route, however, it just does not make sense for the A380 to fly domestic US routes.

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Why did U.S. carriers avoid the A380?

The A380 is just too big. Airlines have found that capacity is not necessarily better when frequency is an option. Even then, such a large aircraft can come with plenty of operational constraints since some airports simply do not have the upgraded infrastructure to handle this size aircraft. It is for this reason that some airports are off-limits for Emirates – the world’s largest A380 operator.

Emirates cannot use the A380 at every airport. Photo: Airbus

Wet-lease operators

If the A380 were to fly for a United States carrier, it would likely be a leased plane from an operator like HiFly.

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HiFly operates A380 on behalf of other carriers. Photo: HiFly

If an airline were to wet-lease an A380, it would probably be due to unavailable aircraft within its own fleet. Aircraft groundings, in particular, can lead to an airline leasing this aircraft from HiFly. Furthermore, the airline itself would not have to worry about training crew to operate these flights which makes HiFly’s leasing options fairly attractive. That being said, most U.S. airlines do not have to face the same challenges as other HiFly customers, such as Norwegian.

A380
The A380 would likely only fly a domestic route as part of a wet-lease agreement. Photo: Airbus

Overall

The A380 was never feasible for United States domestic operations. In fact, around the world, there are very few routes where such a large aircraft would work. The most likely way a United States carrier would fly the A380 would be amid a capacity crunch, which seems unlikely.

Do you think the A380 could have worked on domestic U.S. flights? Let us know in the comments!

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Thang Nguyen

US is so conservative, rarely happen. US is the only developed country who use imperial system

Dennis

The A380 is too new and passenger-friendly for US airlines. They prefer old, dirty, cramped planes for their victims… er I mean, customers.

Steve

Let us not forget that Honolulu is a domestic destination for the US, and for most of the US population, the distance from Honolulu is greater than is Honolulu to Tokyo, where ANA is running A380 flights. For me, Honolulu is a longer trip than Frankfurt. Back in the early 1980s, the airport was populated mainly with 747s, with a smattering of trijets. ETOPs did not yet exist. No idea what the situation is today, but my last flight there was in a 777.

When the A380 was launched, the intent was to out-compete the 747-400, a 15-year old design at that point. From that perspective, the A380 has succeeded spectacularly (aside from the freighter market, where it has been a miserable failure.) Congratulations, Airbus. If my preferred airline were to start flying the A380, I would be looking to switch carriers, since it would be destined to follow in the path of Eastern, Pan Am, and TWA, among many others.

pcafrica

US law requires that domestic flights are operated by US-owned and crewed aircraft, hence the scenario with HiFly aircraft could not happen

JKT

Larger jets than 767’s and 787’s already operate coast-to-coast. United flies 777’s from LAX to EWR daily. American flies A330’s from SFO and LAX to PHL daily (or they did; they recently dialed them back to 767’s due to competition into PHL from United, Alaska, and Spirit on those routes.) Given that these big, dual-aisle planes are already crossing the country regularly, the A380 would not be that big a jump. The two questions are whether an airline could get second-hand A380’s cheap enough (I bet yes, given some are already being retired), and they could get enough passengers (my guess would be no.)

Joseph

The US has a significant population; do the US carriers ever think about adding capacity with the A380 etc, rather than reduce frequency? Yes it is a saturated market, but more seats available on routes will only increase competition and drive prices down. Additionally, the A380 is a passenger-magnet; it’s utter ignorance to deny that. I think it’s plausible.

KENNY G

THE A380 IS A FABULOUS AIRCRAFT. It’s my impression that frequent flyers would swich airlines to the one operating a cross country A380.

Craig Brinkworth

Biggest issue is that an A380 needs to be essentially full, and to be profitable. So it’s competing against more efficient twin jets with higher frequency. Yes Hawaii s potential, but when 747’s dominated some airports airfares were more, and so flights could be less full and wide body twin jets were still to come in to vogue.
Low frequency, high number, and long domestic flights like Sydney to Perth are feasible, but but even Qantas has retired the 747″s they used on this and run A330’s and 737’s. The this is partly due to Perth mining boom being over, and the but who knows, an increase in passengers could make it viable.

BritanniaViking

The Boeing 787-9 in particular is the most fuel-efficient aircraft at 39 passenger kilometers per liter of fuel, or 60% better fuel efficiency than the A380 per passenger.
The A380 designer sold his shares in Airbus once he realised he had made a mistake in the A380 total weight as he didn’t account for the weight of all the wiring throughout the A380. The A380 was dead before its first flight. EU Tax payers are paying billions for Airbus mistakes. Boeing does not rely on tax payers to fund its mistakes.

Derek P Hendricks

The only way…
The A-380 will work for most routes , is as a defacto combi-freighter . Passengers on the top-deck , freight-only in the cargo-holds , luggage-only on the aft main-deck , pax on the fore main-deck . Sound-deadening wall- partitioning would be necessary . Double-gangways would have to be eliminated . Carrying light-freight only on the center main-deck , would be even better . The plane could then net as much revenue as it would flying with full pax-loads .
*Early bird gets the buck !
D.H.

Gary

It was a failed experiment previously at Peoples Express airlines which ran 2 – 747s EWR – LAX in the 1980s.

VHAQ

I would say it’s feasible. Frequency over capacity is not good for the environment. And it works around the world.

S venkataraman

A380 best use is to make it cattle class service to ferry workers from uAe/West Asia to Pakistan Bangladesh n South Asia by converting to standing passengers.

This will reduce flight costs for low income workers n put the plane into chartered suttles.

gretnabear

GATES! for the 380 just don’t exist on the CONUS domestic side of US airports; and the last 747 domestic was SFO to HNL in 2017.

Magilla G. Orilla

Americans like to fly non stop from where they are to where they are going, when they want to go. A-380 operations requires a hub and spoke system to agglomerate a mass of passengers to fill the plane. This means more connections, more layovers, more wasted time for the passenger making his schedule fit the airline instead of the other way around. It is the same reason people pay millions to fly in tiny little private jets with fewer amenities. Private jet travel means you take off as soon as you get to the airport, fly directly to your destination, and spend all your time doing business or enjoying leisure and none of your time sitting in a terminal waiting for 800 other people to turn up.

Phiroze K Cama

In India, the A380 on dense routes like Mumbai – Delhi, Mumbai – Bangalore, Mumbai – Hyderabad, and the same from Delhi, would be a winner for the Airline operating the A380.

lghjl

The A380 has poor operating costs so no route is efficient. It carrys significantly more weight per seat than other jets and the aerodynamics are also poor not to mention that the engine tech is now a generation or two behind.