Airbus Announces Study For Upgraded A380plus

June 19, 2017

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Airbus has announced a study to upgrade the A380 as it seeks to reinvigorate sales of the world’s biggest commercial aircraft.

The A380plus promises a fuel burn saving and markedly lower cost per seat compared with the current A380, which first flew in 2005 and entered commercial service in 2007 with Singapore Airlines.

Airbus said at the Paris Airshow on Sunday that a development study for an enhanced A380 will include larger winglets to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag, and an increased maximum take-off weight which will allow either an 80-seat increase in capacity or an extension in range of 300 nautical miles.

“The A380plus is an efficient way to offer even better economics and improved operational performance at the same time,” Airbus sales chief John Leahy said. “The A380 is well-proven as the solution to increasing congestion at large airports, and in offering a unique, passenger-preferred experience.”

The larger winglets and other aerodynamic changes will provide a 4 percent saving on fuel burn. Less frequent maintenance checks will reduce maintenance costs and increase aircraft availability, Airbus said.

Passengers will notice a difference too, with the airframer squeezing an additional seat in each row, up from the 3-4-3 in current economy configuration to a 3-5-3 layout. That, and other cabin changes including reconfiguring the stairs between decks, will allow the A380plus to carry up to 575 passengers in a typical airline configuration. The current average capacity across the world fleet is 497.

The upgrade, which includes an increased maximum take-off weight of 578 tonnes, will provide a 13 percent cost per seat reduction to operators.

Airbus has been cutting back its A380 production rate as it seeks to extend the life of the aircraft. The A380plus will go some way to increase the commercial attractiveness of the ‘superjumbo’, but falls short of an A380neo, which would entail a more costly and longer update process.

Airbus has taken orders for 317 A380s, with 213 delivered by the end of May. Emirates is the largest operator with 95 in operation, out of an order total of 142. Whether the Dubai carrier will add the A380plus remains to be seen.