At a list price of US$414.4 million, the Airbus A380 is the world’s most expensive passenger aircraft.
It is also the largest, certified to carry up to 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration, although all of the 10 current commercial operators have chosen a three-class configuration averaging just under 500 seats.
Last July, to the relief of many in the travel industry, French carrier Air Austral shelved plans for two all-economy A380s, each fitted with 840 seats for flights between the airline’s hub in Reunion (RUN) and Paris (CDG).
One Russian carrier, Transaero Airlines, still wants to fill its A380s with 652 passengers, 616 of them in the economy cabin alone.
There’s been so much hype about the superjumbo, major operators like Emirates have been promising an “unrivalled travel experience.”
“Unrivalled?” Maybe for first- and business-class passengers, but if you’re an economy-class passenger, you would be worse off on an A380 than on a smaller aircraft.
I have travelled on the Emirates A380 from Toronto (YYZ) to Dubai (DXB) and back multiple times.
My only reason for choosing this flight is that it provides convenient connections (fortunately on smaller aircraft) from Dubai.
The agony begins long before the departure and continues even after the arrival – first at immigration counters and then at baggage carousels.
Because of the sheer number of passengers the behemoth carries, the boarding is always chaotic, with long lineups. This, after checking in hours ahead of the flight.
Once you’re inside, the seats do not provide much comfort either. Some of the budget carriers, like JetBlue for example, offer seats with more leg room than the Emirates A380.
Yes, there is plenty of entertainment on board, but you can’t enjoy any of it if you can’t sit comfortably. There’s no footrest. On a 15-hour flight, some anti-thrombosis help would make a lot of difference.
Airbus is taking notice, or at least that is what you would think.
The European manufacturer is actually considering 11-abreast seating for the A380 economy class (currently it is 10) and add dozens more seats into the already-cramped cabin to attract more customers.
A full-scale mock-up of the new seating concept was on show at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, last month.
Of course, the decision to squeeze in more passengers is not made by people flying the economy class.
In its new ‘Own the Sky’ advertisement campaign, Airbus is touting the A380’s ability to generate more revenues than other aircraft.
With the superjumbo, Airbus has succeeded in extending the discomfort of long-haul flights to the gates and baggage carousels.
Current A380 operators with the number of airplanes in service
- Emirates (EK) 47
- Singapore Airlines (SQ) 19
- Qantas (QF) 12
- Lufthansa (LH) 11
- Air France (AF) 9
- Korean Air (KE) 8
- Malaysia Airlines (MH) 6
- Thai Airways International (TG) 6
- British Airways (BA) 5
- China Southern Airlines (CZ)