In a bid to resuscitate sales of its struggling flagship A380, Airbus unveiled a new version of its iconic superjumbo with a host of upgrades on Monday at the 2017 Paris Air Show.
Airbus claims the plane — dubbed the A380plus — has been upgraded in five main areas including fuel efficiency and passenger capacity.
Airbus hopes the new development will make the A380, which hasn’t generated a single new order in more than a year, more financially attractive for airlines.
“The A380plus is an efficient way to offer even better economics and improved operational performance at the same time,” Airbus COO John Leahy said in a statement. “It is a new step for our iconic aircraft to best serve worldwide fast-growing traffic and the evolving needs of the A380 customers.”
The most obvious upgrade made to the A380 is the addition of a set of split winglets that are designed to curtail the effects of induced drag and wingtip vortices. Airbus claims the improved aerodynamics created by the winglets will boost the plane’s fuel economy by 4%.
In addition, Airbus increased the A380’s passenger capacity by a whopping 80 seats to lower the plane’s unit operating costs. Even though the A380 is certified to fly with more than 850 passengers, the plane is usually configured to fly with 497 passengers. The A380plus’s upgraded interior is expected to boost that capacity to 575 seats.
The airplane has made this happen in a variety of manners. At the front of the plane, the A380’s grand staircase and pilots’ rest quarters are gone. The grand staircase has been replaced by a tighter, space efficient version — making room for 20 additional passengers. At the same time, pilots’ rest quarters have been merged with the flight attendants’ crew rest facility on the lower deck of the plane — making way for three premium economy seats.
At the back of the plane, Airbus replaced the stylish spiral staircase with a traditional staircase. This allowed engineers to redesign the aft galley to create space for 14 more passengers.
On the upper deck, Airbus made room for 10 additional business class passengers by removing the side storage areas.
The final 34 are created to by increasing the numbers of seats per row— perhaps the last thing passengers want to hear.
In economy, Airbus increased capacity by cramming 11 seats into a row instead of 10 — thereby creating room for 23 more passengers. The seats are to be configured in a 3-5-3 layout with five seats in the center section.
In premium economy, the A380plus will have nine-abreast seating instead of the traditional eight passengers per row. This is expected to make room for 11 passengers.
Over the past few years, Airbus has flirted with the possibility of an A380neo or New Engine Option with new fuel efficient engines, avionics, and a redesigned wing. The Neo is something Emirates, the A380’s largest customer, has lobbied heavily for over the past few years. However, Airbus seems to have balked at the time and high development costs along with the prospect of few new customers in return.
The A380plus seems to be a stop-gap measure that may bring some of the savings of the full neo at a fraction of the development cost.
In total, Airbus claims the changes it has made for the Plus will reduce the cost per seat for the plane’s customers by 13%.
No airlines have, thus far, taken up Airbus on its new and improved A380.
Here’s a closer look at the Airbus A380plus: