Will There Ever Be A Bigger Passenger Plane Than The Airbus A380?

Will there ever be a bigger plane than the A380? Or has the world moved onto smaller aircraft forever?

Qantas-Airbus-A380-Retirement
Ultimately, the A380 failed as a congestion buster at airports. Photo: JamestheAviator via Wikimedia Commons.

Why was the A380 built?

Before we jump into our predictions, we need to cover the background and motivations as to why the A380 exists. The A380 was built to serve multiple different airline needs.

The first was to solve the problem of increasing capacity to busy airports and justify expensive landing slots. Some airports have little or no free landing slots and have aircraft arriving 24 hours a day. Plus, these slots are so in demand by airlines that they can cost millions of dollars.

Advertisement

The A380 gets around this by offering airlines a way to increase capacity on the slots they already have.

Advertisement

A second perk of the A380 is lowing the cost per seat. Because there are so many passengers onboard, airlines who operate the A380 have a lower cost per seat compared to other airlines and thus could leverage that competitive advantage (much like how Emirates does today). As long as they can fill it, that is.

Lastly, the A380 is perfectly designed for airlines operating a vast hub to hub model. Airlines focusing on long-haul travel from two different points in the world (such as London and Dubai) find that using a single A380 offers an advantage over multiple smaller aircraft. Unlike smaller routes between close cities (such as Chicago to New York), airlines are less concerned about frequency but rather want to combine all their passengers for the day into one aircraft to reduce costs.

Advertisement
A380
Will another aircraft ever be bigger than the A380. Photo: Getty Images

Will another big aircraft ever be built?

You can’t answer the above question without tieing into why the A380 was ultimately a commercial failure.

The A380 burned too much fuel, was hard to make profitable (although some airlines have made it a success) and there are only so many routes that need such vast capacity.

Plus, airlines are moving more towards increased frequency over increased capacity. They would rather have multiple aircraft (each easier to fill up and make profitable) than to operate a single aircraft each day.

Additionally, the A380 struggled with the rise of fuel prices. Despite having so many seats onboard, the aircraft has the biggest empty weight of any passenger aircraft and thus costs the most fuel just get into the air.

With newer aircraft coming out with lighter fuselages, fewer engines (the A380 had four engines and the new Boeing 777X only has two) and not requiring modifications to runways & airport terminals, the future belongs to smaller aircraft.

Or does it?

Emirates Airbus A380
Even Emirates is branching out into new aircraft away from the A380. Photo: Emirates

Do any projects currently exist?

Looking at the current plane builders would be the clearest sign of a big aircraft revival.

Now that the A380 has been discontinued, Airbus has decided to focus on their smaller aircraft and try to push their range as much as possible (such as the A321XLR).

Boeing has not come to the table with anything new since the Boeing 747-8. There are no more passenger 747 orders left, with only a few cargo planes being built. Boeing has taken a different direction with its new flagship Boeing 777X, offering an aircraft that has massive capacity but without the A380 disadvantages above.

There is a third project in the works that we might expect to hear about in the next decade.

COMAC is working on a large aircraft codenamed the C939. It will be a twin-engined aircraft and seat up to 400 passengers. It won’t be double-decked like the A380, but rather be a rival to the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350.

So far, the upper limit for aircraft seems to be in the 400 seat range, with the current A380s being phased out over the next decade. Might we see more A380s like aircraft in the future? Possibly, but likely airlines will push towards more aircraft in the sky than doubling down on singular massive aircraft.

What do you think? Will there be any aircraft bigger than an A380? Let us know in the comments.

Advertisement

31
Leave a Reply

23 Comment threads
8 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
19 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Hessu

I guess not, if (weight)technology does not have totally new innovations or “revolution”.

Farhan Nazar

No. The aviation industry have long move on from large aircraft such as the A380 and 747, so as much as enthusiasts love and want it to forever fly in the skies the age of super large passenger airplane is over.

Matthew in PDX

No, twinjets are the way of the future. They are more fuel efficient, and smaller and easier to fill. They are also cheaper to buy and maintain, allowing airlines the ability to buy more planes for the same amount of capital. An airline like Qantas would rather have multiple daily flights between Australia and the USA, for example, so that business passengers have greater convenience. For example, most of Qantas’ flights to the west coast of the USA leave in the morning and arrive in the morning, with connections on AA and AK to other destinations in N. America. If… Read more »

Flying Gaijin

Certainly wouldn’t be connecting to AK. That’s the postal code for the state of Alaska, but AS is their IATA code. Your AK belongs to Air Corsica in France, not likely to be connecting many passengers from QF flights.

Lalo Galo

Honestly, there could be a future due to more efficient engines being made

JanetG

It’s about relative efficiency. Two will ALWAYS cost less than FOUR. A 10th generation A380 100 years from now will always cost more to operate than a 10th generation 787.

Keith Kitzhaber

If more efficient engines were made, they would also be available for smaller jets… so every plane, in theory, would be more efficient.

gid

will that be another blunder? hopefully not.

DW K

i fancy a twin-engine double deck aircraft in the future

WR2

The other issue with the A380 is that it strains all the other processes at the airport. Instead of a constant flow of passengers going through security, immigration, etc, if you have two A380s land/depart near the same time and now you suddenly have a 1-2 hour wait. If bigger can be done more efficiently, then yes, it will eventually be done again, but not in the next decade.

Al K

No. If one aircraft goes in for maintenance, that is a lot of lost revenue at one time.

Aardi

If passenger traffic keeps on growing and the major airports are already in full landing/takeoff capacity, then of course bigger planes will become viable again. We should know by now to never say never.

Bastiaan Naber

‘ever’ is a long time. Who knows what happens in 100 years from now. But the trends shows us that population grows steadily and more of us want to fly. The worlds resources (runways, airports) don’t grow at the same speed. This means that planes have to get bigger. Perhaps not in the next 30 years but eventually there will be a need for bigger planes.

JanetG

Teleconference will kill all business travel in the future as businesses like to reduce costs. So travel between big internatonal cities won’t be growing like crazy to need another a380. Point to point travel is the future.

John

Sadly no longer flying out of Glasgow.

Malcolm Barrett

I think a serious problem with extra large capacity aircraft is the strain put on infrastructure such as security, baggage handling, customs and passport control. This is bad enough at airports such as Heathrow and Schipol at the best of times.

Andrew

If the major airlines would really be concerned abour the environment they would stick to the 380. Busy routes not only international but also domestic would be much better off with a few big birds than a miriad of small ones. From NYC to LAX an airlines flies out a single isle every hour! 3 380s would pollute much less, passengers would have a much better experience and the airspace would be much less congested.
But todays model prioritizes the businessman’s commodity even before common sense.

JanetG

The better passenger experience is flight frequency where I can pick a perfect time for departure for me.

Lawrence

Absolutely. Pollution will be the big issue. Frequency of smaller planes will have to be sacrificed eventually.

Gerry S

I envision a super large airship. Much like the Zeppelins. They would be slower but more efficient. I envision none other than Greta herself giving it her stamp of approval. The future is the past, and boy, am I confused.

Andrew

3 A380 flights per day on the NYC-LAX for an airline, should give you more than enough choice. You must take into account that you will “loose half day” in any case so what does it matter if the perfect flight for you would be lets say at 10:30 am? You had one at 7 or 8 am an the next one is at 12 or 1 pm. If a “businessman” really can’t afford to wait for two hours than the best option for him is a private jet or a heart attack for too much job related stress.

JanetG

Those “businessmen” will be gone because businesses are cutting costs by having them doing teleconferences. Startups no longer wants to be in silicon valley because rents and other costs are too high.

Those A380 routes won’t exist in the future. Point to point travel is the future and A380 doesn’t belong in that future.

Andrew

In any case the Environment or lets say the “Higher Good” should have priority over selfish and unimportant wishes.
Like in the 737 Max’s case where money was put before saftey in the same way we shouldn’t put individual needs before the “Higher Good”.

Andrew

No matter how you call them, the biggest routes are “hub-hub” and they already exist now and will be there also in the future. I don’t know if the majority of the passengers on the lets say NYC-LAX are business related or not but in any case fewer bigger planes would do a much better job.
The problem of todays society is that it is full of selfish individuals and it is driven by greed. When we will outgrow and broaden our consciousness then things will finally change. ☺

JanetG

Greed and selfish? Look at a mirror.

The only people that love the A380 are the mileage run people that goes to Dubai for a stop-over for no reason when they could have just taken a non-stop flight completely bypassing Dubai and saving hours of travel time. The world doesn’t revolve around these people’s mileage run hobby.

Emirates most profitable A380 route is Dubai-Riyadh which you can take a train.

Gerry S

And

Gerry S

the winner of this interesting debate is….JanetG. By a preponderance of facts and unemotional delivery. Good to hear from you JanetG.

Andrew

Dear Janet, why did you take it personally? 😉

So to make things clear I have not yet flown Emirates and it doesn’t come to my mind to go to Dubai on holiday. ☺
Second, from the part of Europe where I live, Emirates and other ME airlines offer a good alternative to a stopover in FRA, CDG,… so they are handy when flying to Asia.

If there is something personal you have against the A380 well then just read some flight reviews and compare them to the 787 – economy class of course. ☺

Andrew

Dear Gerry I didn’t know I was in a contest. ☺ Well at least I tried my best. 😉
Just for the closing… Fewer is better. 😉

Gerry S

Andrew, this was a most interesting discussion. Really it was. Informed and knowledgeable. At the end Janet G has me in her corner. Your input was sound and meaningful Andrew. You both have earned my respect and discussions like yours are what I enjoy. Stay informed..

joonas reivik

propably yes if they will make their runways stronger. The plane would have 6 engines 2 and a half floors that would be cool though