Airbus presents A380plus at Paris Airshow

A mockup of the new Airbus A380 winglets on board a test aircraft at the 2017 Paris Airshow. (Airbus)
A mockup of the new Airbus A380 winglets on board a test aircraft at the 2017 Paris Airshow. (Airbus)

Airbus has presented an updated version of the A380 featuring new fuel saving winglets in what is the latest initiative to help improve the aircraft’s operating economics and perhaps attract new orders for the program.

The winglets were on display on one of Airbus’s A380 test fleet present at the Paris Airshow, which got underway on Monday (European time).

They are part of improvements to the aircraft that Airbus has packaged together and called A380plus, including extending maintenance intervals, aerodynamic changes to the wing and previously announced “cabin enablers” to add more seats.

Airbus Commercial Aircraft head of A380 marketing Frank Vermeire said the A380 market was “constantly moving”.

“We’ve spoken to our existing customers and have received positive feedback on the improvements envisioned for the A380plus,” Vermeire said in a statement.

“We see the improvements in the A380plus as a great step to make the A380 even more efficient, ensuring it stays well ahead of the competition, while still offering passengers a unique flying experience in the best cabin in the sky.”

Airbus said the new winglets, measuring 4.7 metres in height (an uplet of 3.5m and a downlet of 1.2m), would help improve aerodynamics and reduce drag. The A380 wings’ overall dimensions would remain within an 80m x 80m envelope, maintaining the aircraft’s compatibility with airport infrastructure.

Further, Airbus said the A380plus would have longer maintenance check intervals, including a reduced six-year check downtime, to help cut maintenance costs and increase the available flying hours of the aircraft.

The A380plus would also comprise system improvements derived from the company’s A350 program, with the latest inflight entertainment system, new fuel pumps with high-slip induction motors and a new flight management system to be offered.

This comes on top of previously announced measures to add up to 80 more seats in the cabin, such as an 11-abreast economy and nine-abreast premium economy on the lower deck, new stairs, the removal of sidewall stowage bins on the upper deck and a combined crew rest compartment.

Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy said the A380plus was a “new step for our iconic aircraft to best serve worldwide fast-growing traffic and the evolving needs of the A380 customers”.

“The A380plus is an efficient way to offer even better economics and improved operational performance at the same time,” Leahy said.

“The A380 is well-proven as the solution to increasing congestion at large airports, and in offering a unique, passenger-preferred experience.”

Airbus has previously outlined a reduction of the A380’s production rate to one aircraft a month by 2018. There were 317 orders for the A380 at May 31 2017, according to the Airbus website, with 213 aircraft delivered and a backlog of 104.

The rate may need to be further reduced if no new orders emerge, Airbus executive vice president and head of programs Didier Evrard told media on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Cancun on June 5.

“It needs orders this year to maintain one a month,” Evrard said.

An artist's impression of the Airbus A380plus. (Airbus)
An artist’s impression of the Airbus A380plus. (Airbus)

Airbus published a video about A380plus on its YouTube channel:

Meanwhile, the company said it would extend its Airspace by Airbus cabin concept featured on its A330neo and A350 programs to the A320 family of aircraft.

This will include redesigned overhead stowage bins that are 40 per cent bigger compared with A320s flying today, as well as new lighting and updated lavatories.

Airbus Commercial Aircraft head of design and brand management Paul Edwards said the width of the A320 Airspace cabin had been increased by “approximately an inch in the important head and shoulder areas”.

“The designers worked very closely with engineers, and found every millimetre we could to give back to the passenger,” Edwards said.

Comments

  1. Lechuga says

    This actually has QANTAS written all over it. They’d love that capactity on their SYD & MEL – LAX routes.
    Knowing them, they’ll change their last A380 orders to the Plus.

  2. john doutch says

    I am not a betting man but………………………………………………I betcha they don’t

  3. Will says

    Looks like a last ditch effort by Airbus to save the A380. It’ll be interesting to see how the airlines react to it, but i don’t have high hopes.

  4. Jeff says

    The only good thing I like about the A380 is the the overtime I get when it breaks down in melb 1-2 times a week.passengers love to fly in them,engineers hate them.

  5. Bill says

    The only airline looking at buying more A380’s is Emirates and even then it will only be with four new engines under the wings. A 4% fuel saving and 3-5-3 seating probably won’t cut the mustard for any airline considering a purchase, as most prefer frequency over the capacity an A380 offers.

  6. Chris Grealy says

    Oh God, 80 more seats in economy, already the most uncomfortable seats ever! That’s it! No more flying on A380s. Any airline that buys these is utterly disregarding of passenger comfort.

  7. John Reid says

    Bill, frequency is wonderful, but if you are slot-limited e.g. LHR, JFK, upgauging is the only way to go. I have flown at least annually to London and I think the days are gone when you could count on many vacant seats, at least on the first leg to Dubai.

    I too doubt that Qantas will decide to take up some of their outstanding 8 airframes, except maybe as replacements – they could not hope for a delivery slot before 2020 by which time Nancy-Bird Walton will be 12 years old. Those early hulls are no doubt heavier than current production too which would argue to replace them, if the capital cost can be covered..

    I hope that if Qantas do go ahead, that they do NOT go ahead with the 3-5-3 Y-seating. For me, one of the big pluses of A380 is its slightly-wider seats.

  8. Geoff says

    These enhancements are evolutionary to an already efficient and desirable aircraft. A natural process for any aircraft manufacturer.

    Some of the comments above are missing some points. For example, “the 3-5-3 economy only” seating still allows for 18″ seat widths. This arrangement adding maybe 23 seats, would be the last resort of any full service airline as it would detract from the principal advantage of this pax loving wide-body. It is simply an offer of potential to Airlines. I too, would not wish for airlines to take up that option. Leave 10 abreast for the A380 and 8 abreast for the 787! Our Japanese Airlines lead the charge in this latter respect.

    If you think about how inexpensive airline tickets are these days in real terms, (do some research on much earlier years), airlines have reacted by cramming more seats across cabins. The 787 with 9 abreast is one of the worst examples, but you ‘get what you pay for’ most of the time. The choice is yours to fly on a much wider seat in business class or better.

    The A380 offers the best seat widths for economy at 10 abreast. No question. Couple this with an extraordinarily quiet and higher pressure cabin and the pax experience is very very good.

    The other changes talk about greater engineering reliability due to some “maintenance optimisation”. This large aircraft is getting better in this regard but it is a very large aircraft with commensurate parts count and advanced systems.

    The need for such an aircraft is very real as the growing urbanisation of peoples dictate VLA for serving slot constrained airports, the likes of which will continue to grow.

    The Middle East and Asia are the areas of most future pax growth. Airbus will sell many more of these aircraft. It is not only Emirates. Look at the Chinese and Indian markets!

  9. PeterL says

    I doubt whether Qantas will ever get the rest of the A380s. To make economic sense they have to be full all the time and adding 80 more seats makes that a lot harder. Ever been on a Qantas A380, I have quite a few times and they have never been full.

    If they cannot fill the A380 then a full A330 or even better a full 787 are probably a much more economical proposition.

    If Qantas wants size, range and good economics then the 777x supposedly has better range and economics than even a full A380 and still a very large aircraft.

    Hasn’t Emirates stated that if Airbus does not do a A380neo they will seriously consider reducing their A380 orders significantly? It seems this A380plus is a knee jerk reaction to the 777x and something flash for the Paris Airshow.

  10. Patrick Kilby says

    They are perfect for EK for hot weather. They will buy a few of these and wait for a few more step improvements. The new engine isn’t ready but when it is they will add a few more. Note the 777-9 is hardly rushing out the door either.

  11. Craig says

    Qantas management has already stated on numerous occasions that they will not be taking delivery of the remaining 8 A380 aircraft. The current 12 is sufficient for the route structure and demand. The future plan is B789 to start replacing the B744 and either the B77x or A350ULR to in time replace the 6 B744ER and 12 A380.

    It is obvious that the Melb – Dubai – London route doesn’t support the A380 size aircraft which is why the B789 is replacing the A380 on the route with a route modification. Even the Sydney – LA route is serviced by the B744 on some days instead of the A380. As Qantas pointed out when they announced the QF 9/10 changes that the spare A380s would be used to meet demand in other markets such as peak demand to destinations in Asia like Hong Kong and Singapore.

  12. Will says

    @Patrick Kilby
    Boeing 777-9 Orders: 253
    Airbus A380 Deliveries: 213 WITH NO NEW ORDERS

    The 777-9 completely outdoing the A380 in terms with orders

  13.   says

    This really seems a waste to me. China Southern (the only Chinese airline that has the A380) regrets purchasing them. Even Thai and Korean don’t have that many and haven’t done too much with them. Even VS has kept deferring their order. And no airline in Africa, South America or North America has purchased any because of a) the price, b) the limited capacity, and to a lesser extent c) airport runway lengths. The only airlines that I can really imagine buying them are EK (though that would involve cancelling their B777x orders) or maybe SQ, or even less likely, EY.

  14. Geoff says

    Watch and wait. Look into the future. China Southern and others will need more eventually. So will Cathay. The best is yet to come in the form of a -900.Plus This will be the “sweet spot” model as a certain senior Captain once quoted. The aircraft has evolved.considerably thus far and it will continue.

    Watch and wait.

  15. Richard says

    with worldwide recession, no one is gong to want the A380’s they already have. Might be the end of this big bus. Emirates might convert some of their A380 to 1,000 pax jobs, good for transporting workers from India, Pakistan, Philippines etc., who have no choice on who to fly with (They’re given the cheapest possible flights)

  16. Murray Howlett says

    What are B789, B744, B77x & B744ER? Are these real planes or just abbreviation gone mad?

  17. Craig says

    @ Murray Howlett

    The Boeing 789 is the B787-900, B744 is the Boeing 747-400. B744ER is the Boeing 747-400 Extended Range and the B77x is the new incarnation of the Boeing 777 as the Boeing 777-8 and Boeing 777-9