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Airbus will stop building the A380 in 2021 (wsj.com)
414 points by ramzyo 66 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 273 comments

Knowing the state of things and the history of the project I'm not much surprised by this, yet I'm a bit taken aback that this indeed has come to pass. I always hate it when a serviceable, if not especially outstanding, aircraft gets shuttered well before it had a meaningful lifecycle in the industry.

But from everything I've read (am I'm no industry expert on the business side) it was a dick-swinging contest from the get-go. Boeing saw that a full-on new spec 4-engine plane was not going to pay itself back; if Airbus execs saw it, they didn't let it change their path.

"Build it and they will come," was perhaps the irrational source of motive for pressing on from the beginning. I don't recall the market (at the time the project was greenlit) clamoring for a bigger, more efficient, more pax friendly quad-jet. It's almost as if Airbus managed to upsell this beast to the carriers that did choose to purchase the ones they have.

The shifting winds of route topology from hub-n-spoke to point-to-point were already brewing, and the stair-step jumps in the ETOPS allowances for twins had obviously not yet reached its limit ... but still, they went for it.

Well, I hope the ones that are built, and those yet to be built, will run for decades more because they are mighty beasts to behold; that much is true. I know the international departure slots out of LAX and when I remember and the sky is clear I step out on my deck and get to watch them on initial climb-out (it's usually Emirates, but sometimes there are others). They look like freight trains in the sky and are really quiet, but the four engines together make a unique drone that will pull me outside even when I'm not even planning to take a peek.

Farewell, A380; we barely knew thee.

My understanding is that Airbus assumed the worldwide increase in traffic, in part fueled by developing countries, combined with limited slots in busy airports would give a large boost to the hub and spoke model and make a large plane viable.

I agree that the shift in the market to point-to-point was becoming apparent during A380 development.

A major reason for the 747s popularity was it's range. With much more efficient engines coming along, smaller twin engine aircraft could cover most routes, and do so cheaper, so the A380 wasn't really needed anymore.

But I reckon the project was too far along, with too much buy in and investment by European countries and partners, to pull the plug.

Boeing foresaw this and focused on smaller, more efficient models instead. This sure saved them a lot of money and engineering resources.

It's a shame for aviation enthusiasts though, it sure is a fascinating plane.

> This sure saved them a lot of money and engineering resources.

The 787 development was so poorly planned and executed that it cost Boeing $28 billion in additional unplanned expenditure. And they've kicked that can down the road by booking that as 'deferred costs', an accounting sleight of hand that lets them pretend they haven't spent each dollar until they have earned it on a sale.

Neither company of the duopoly came out of that rivalry looking good.

But at least Airbus has accounted for all the A380 dev costs, no-one has to face that 10 years hence.

Yeah I remember the whole supply chain mess of the 787. Turns out outsourcing everything is not so ideal after all.

Airbus had it's own fair share of development troubles with the A380 though, including the infamous cabling issue due to different software versions between France and Germany, and accompanying years of delays.

I also highly doubt that the A380 has broken even.

Building these beasts that are modern airplanes is just tough. I am fascinated with the whole supply chain topic though.

An engineer commenting on the DC10 / L-1011 battle for market share said something like "it turns out we outsourced all the profit and none of the risk" - I have not tracked down the source, unfortunately.

Maybe John Hart-Smith of Douglas...


That paper is out on the internet. I found a copy here https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/6974...

it's a good read on outsourcing, profits and management.

>> But at least Airbus has accounted for all the A380 dev costs

> I also highly doubt that the A380 has broken even.

That's not what it's saying, but that A380 dev is written off, while Boeing still has it on the books somewhere to make an appearance in the future.

>Turns out outsourcing everything is not so ideal after all.

The crazy thing is that this has been the primary business model in the automotive industry for decades at this point and it (generally) works exactly as advertised. If I had to posit why the benefits failed to materialize fot Boeing, it's that the Aerospace industry's approach to and competence with supplier development and quality control is sorely lacking in comparison to that of the automotive sector.

It took decades for the major OEMs to get a handle on the mechanations of the tiered supplier system and they were also operating in a sector where production volumes are measured in the hundreds of thousands. It's far easier to absorb the cost of a "learning moment" when you can spread the cost of a new iniection mold made to the right spec over 100,000+ units. There are also far more opportunities for "learning moments" to appear when you're making hundreds of parts a day versus one a month. Not only can you play catch up without incurring too much of a cost penalty if a whole days production is scrapped, you can gather far more data to help you refine your process (statistical process control).

> Turns out outsourcing everything is not so ideal after all.

If you want a good reason military aerospace is a mess and NaSA couldn't build a replacement for the space shuttle, that's a big big reason.

This is incorrect - Airbus has to pay off the launch aid form governments that paid for it. The WTO later ruled this form of financing illegal, so in the last two years, Airbus has been converting it to more conventional financial structures.

see: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/airbus-confirms-a...

> Airbus has to pay off the launch aid form governments that paid for it.

I don't think so. The article you linked says only that they need to be in compliance with WTO rules. There is nothing about no government support at all.

According to recent media reports in Germany Airbus and its subcontractors got a 1 billion loan for developing the plane. Paying back them is coupled to the commercial success of the product. Because of the premature end of the product the companies will probably never have to pay the loans completely. Exact figures are not public yet.


Not paying these loans back would break the WTO rules - hence the conversion of the RLI/RLA to conventional structures that must be paid off (and they are considerably more then 1billion).

They copied some design elements in the subsequent updates to their other models, though, and the increased ranges helped with getting away fro the hub and spoke arrangement.

> My understanding is that Airbus assumed the worldwide increase in traffic, in part fueled by developing countries, combined with limited slots in busy airports would give a large boost to the hub and spoke model and make a large plane viable.

And that bet made a lot of sense before 2008. The number of slots mostly wasn't growing, but number of passengers on airports was going really fast, with no serious economist predicting it would stop soon.

What Airbus didn't explain was how the airports wouldn't invest in more slots, but would invest in the huge runway clearances required by their plane.

> huge runway clearances

Not to mention increased terminal capacity for the sheer number of passengers disembarking all at once.

Seattle struggles mightily with this. Four international heavy flights arriving within 45 minutes of each other and you are stuck in customs for six hours

I can't speak for Seattle but airport capacity seems the secondary issue. The primary being that US is just flabbergastingly inefficient.

A layover in the US almost always translates to me missing my connecting flight when I go in or out of this country. No matter what airport I go through.

Yeah but a lot of this is because the US has a very self-centric world view, they think everyone is coming to visit them and have no concept at all of an international transfer. In particular they don't have real international departure lounges (that you can't just walk out of without going back thru immigration) like the rest of the world.

Anywhere else on the planet you would pass through a metal detector to get upstairs to the departure lounge and get on your plane.

This is why if you are travelling to Europe from NZ (as I will be on Monday) Singapore/Hong Kong/Shanghai/Tokyo are better candidates for transfers than LAX/SFO

This is true, a lot of other countries do it better. I found Iceland customs to be particularity efficient. Iceland air uses both the front and rear doors of the plane which also speeds things up.

In Fiji they have a band that plays songs for you as you stand in the customs line, can you imagine that in Seattle?

Sounds like Nirvana?

This happened on a recent trip for us. We connected in San Francisco (to Kona, HI). Met up with my girlfriend's sister just fine. Her other sister and brother-in-law, however...

We flew from Toronto to SF, had a 7 hour layover. It was grand. We even went downtown and back with plenty of time. Her one sister flew in from Vancouver—also no problems.

Her other relatives flew in from Victoria, and got stuck in customs at SFO for over 3 hours when their layover was scheduled to be just over an hour. They had to rely on the graciousness of the airline to get them on another flight. They had to take a 4 am flight to Honolulu which had a 4-5 hour layover then connect to Kona. The Iron Man race was the next day that we went to see. They didn't get to sleep for 30+ hours. I mean, there are worse cases where you'll have to endure that kind of stuff. Calfornia->Hawaii is a pretty good place for it to happen. But still.

We were through US customs at YYZ in about 20 minutes.

On another hand we took the Victoria -> Seattle Clipper ferry and US Customs in the Seattle port just sort of hand-waved us through.

> got stuck in customs at SFO for over 3 hours when their layover was scheduled to be just over an hour.

Less than two hours for an international-domestic transfer is crazy at ANY airport, USian or otherwise.

I've made a 45 min transfer at Beijing, they did miss one of my bag though.

Customs in the US is a two-tier experience: with Global Entry (which isn't that expensive or hard to get) you just glide through, even at SFO.

Yes. It's insanely inefficient, but some spots are better than others. Seattle has some very real, physical bottlenecks that cause very long delays. We thought we were safe with a 6 hour layover, but we very nearly missed our connection.

I waited almost 3 to pick up my wife in Boston some years back because of the same issue.

If only they knew when those flights were arriving so they could schedule customs and immigration staff to handle the traffic /s

It sounds trivial but it's not always that easy. I was on a flight from Narita to SeaTac that got a nice jetstream tailwind of around 200mph for most of the cruise. The same applied to another flight from Incheon to SeaTac.

Both of these flights were originally scheduled to land around 8am. They landed around 5am so they had 2 CBP officers on shift to handle a 767 and a 777's worth of people. That mess ate up the entire gain of arriving early.

They would have known about the early arrival not too much earlier than the departure time (order of hours, not days), which isn't really enough time to shift people's work schedules.

I agree that the logistics involved are not that simple. However, it _does_ appear to be a regular occurrence at SeaTac and there's not much that's different (went through that 3 times in 2 months and the experience was the same each time). Anyway, at risk of this going way OT, it was my colloquial evidence that not every airport is equipped to handle multiple concurrent international heavies.

Ever notice how only government services have hours long wait times: DMV, immigration, passport services, city hall, etc. Government has no incentive to optimize.

Many private services have long wait times too. It's not just a government thing.

...in the US.

> If only they knew when those flights were arriving so they could schedule customs and immigration staff to handle the traffic /s

Took me a few seconds to get this...:)

Good thing they are fixing this issue, though it won't be open for another couple years. My cousin is one of the engineers on the project, pretty cool stuff going on on that project, some of it has never been done before.

Ouch, Brazilian airports often have problems even with the car parking and transit at the exit of the airport when a 747 lands...

But the in-airport issues we used to experiment are mostly gone after the airports are privatized. It's amazing how the airlines are able to do people's checkin faster after some structural problems on the airport management are solved.

What I don’t get is that traffic will only increase. In many large cities you just can’t really expand airports. So even direct links using the B787 and A350 will become saturated at one point. So I would expect we will need jumbojets again in the future.

well part of your statement applies to why jumbos don't work, you have to expand airports to support them, in particular you cannot have as many gates servicing them compared to other planes within the same space.

Plus besides the exterior space needed for the gate the interior space for handling so many people loading and offloading is the equivalent to two or more planes.

Even Boeing recently went to folding wing tips to fit their newest super efficient designs into existing gate setups.

The 777 design included the ability to support folding wingtips as an option. They put it in at a customer’s request (American IIRC) and then never used it.

Pretty sure they haven't released the folding wings yet. First flight is 2019Q2. First delivery 2020. 326 on order.

So the 777x is the one you are talking about and it will come standard with folding wingtips, but the original 777 had an option for folding wingtips and no one ordered them.

I am not sure if Boeing had it developed and never used it, or no one ordered it so they never developed it.

Notably, the folding tips on the 777x get the wingspan down to the original 777 span.

Theyre in the middle of building what I think was the first 777x. We saw it in the Everett factory last Friday.

The new 777X models all have folding wingtips. It's part of the standard design, not an option.

You can also fly more direct routes. Not everyone flying in to LHR wants to go to London, far from it in fact. So if airlines would service more direct routes that would decrease traffic on busy airports.

Asia. China's aviation industry had hockey-stick style growth since 1990, and is expected to overtake US volume by 2022 (ignoring economic peril): http://knowledge.ckgsb.edu.cn/2017/04/17/airline-industry/ch...

It seems like China uses the higher capacity 777 for point to point travel, the way the United States uses the 737.

India as well. I wonder what Boeing/Airbus thinks of domestic airline demands in these two countries.

And this is why I think Boeing is hitting it on the nose again with it's 797 project. A bigger plane optimized for shorter ranges. Those 10 times a day flights between city X and city Y currently being done with a 737 will turn into five flights a day with a 797. Bingo you've got 5 slots back.

Except that the frequency of those flights matters on shorthauls.

Delta/AA/B6/UA fly virtually hourly shuttle flights from NYC to BOS, DC, ORD, LAX because business travellers want choice of departure and arrival - not because they don't have bigger planes.

Taking 10 daily flights and turning it into 5 isn't optimal from a passenger perspective on business routes where it means I have 2 hours to kill because my meeting is timed wrong.

It also means if my meeting ends early, I have a chance on hopping on an earlier flight.

It also matters because of flight connections.

A high frequency mainline flight + a low frequency regional leg = You can get a short/optimal connection time with at least one of those mainline flight choices.

But if both flights are low frequency, you wind up with a lot of connections hitting unappealing layover times that drive business to the competitor with a shorter layover.

Well run the calculation the other way. It's 2050 and the passenger volume between NYC to BOS has doubled[1], but the number of runways or slots in NYC hasn't doubled (since it can't), how do they increase capacity of their shuttles without more runways to fly more 737s? A: Switch some of those hourly shuttles to a bigger plane.

[1] Hopefully in 2050 we'll have rediscovered how to build railways in the USA and actually have HSR from NYC to BOS making this example a bad one.

That was one of the big motivations for the California High Speed rail. Take a bunch of the short haul load off the airports.

It's disheartening both that Gov Newsom wants to kill it and how ecstatic people are about that. The 'can't do' culture is very strong in the US.

But if you increase the number of passengers flying, you also have to increase the capacity of your terminals. That's the issue I think the OP was suggesting: if an airport can't expand due to limited space, how does it handle more passengers in its terminals? The answer is obviously more efficient security and loading practices to reduce the amount of time people are waiting for their flight, but if anything that seems to be going the opposite direction

Space for people isn't that big of an issue because the terminal takes up a small part of the airport and they can always build up.

Isn't the B797 a small plane for long distances rather? It's a 2-3-2 configuration vs 3-3-3 for a B787 or A350.

It's twin aisle 7 abreast, sitting in between the 737 and 787 in terms of pax capacity, with no cargo capacity, that will be lighter overall, and optimized for ranges under 4,000 or 4,500 miles depending on source. So a "sorta" replacement for the 757 and 767 with much better economics. And designed just as a people carrier. So expect to see it operated on high volume intra-Asia routes, and things like coast to coast or high volume intra-US and intra-EMEA routes. It'll also take some of the transatlantic market (e.g. anything served by a 757 today).

Operating planes designed for spanning the globe (777, 787, 350, etc) over shorter distances (<4,000 miles) just to get the extra seats becomes much less economical due to the weight of those planes and the wasted space on cargo capacity that can't be filled on the shorter routes.

Not to worry, they'll make a 3-3-2 configuration for the American market.

Yeah, it seems likely to be a mid-capacity, mid-range 757 replacement.

not all planes are full. Even with current capacity the traffic in number of people will increase. Additionally airports dont have to expand, they can optimize for more frequent flights and also extend their operating hours. There are airports that close at night but some which operate pretty much around the clock.

The airports that have problems expanding (because ten thousands of people live in close vicinity) also will have problems opening at might (because millions of people live underneath the flight paths).

Even Heathrow and Frankfurt, with famously strong opposition against new runways, have managed to get new runways approved but not to extend hours into the night.

Heathrow expansion is far from a sure thing. It may have been "approved" by the government, but many legal and financial challenges remain. Not to mention ethical and environmental ones!

> also will have problems opening at might (because millions of people live underneath the flight paths).

Surely it's not the people that live there but the wealth and political clout of said people.

Personally I don't mind the sound of aircraft or trains.

Or just more small planes. Or new, hyperlocal airports.

Or maybe use high speed trains for the shorter distances, freeing up more space for long distance flights.

To be honest it wouldn't be a problem to have airports far away from city centres if they are really fast trains to the city centre. But in London for instance, all express trains to airports are express only in name.

While not really that fast, I used to love Heathrow Express when you could check your luggage at Paddington and step on knowing you didn't need to deal with checking your luggage at Heathrow.

I was just reading the other day that SFO is rapidly approaching mandatory slot control, several years earlier than expected. I forgot where I read it but here's some info on the FAA site: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/at...

SFO has given up on building another runway, which means the only way to grow is with larger airplanes. Some other large US airports are also likely to reach maximum movements in the next decade, and I imagine the same is true globally.

And then on top of that California appears to be backing away from HSR. The biggest cost (legally, politically, financially) for HSR was land acquisition, the same reason SFO canned plans for an additional runway, and the same reason it's not feasible to expand metropolitan highways. Because traffic will only get worse, making OAK and SJC increasingly less attractive to those living on the peninsula, I'm guessing that SFO will see more A380 service than less.

Not that it would make any difference for A380 viability, but it's understandable why Airbus, Emirates, and some others held fast to the promise of the A380 for so long.

A week ago HN user Xixi linked to an article, https://leehamnews.com/2015/12/11/bjorns-corner-twins-or-qua..., arguing that the 4-engined A380 is actually more fuel efficient and less costly to maintain than comparable 2-engined aircraft like the 777 because 2-engined aircraft need overpowered engines. According to this argument what really killed the A380 was exactly what Emirates was upset about: no manufacturer was willing to sell an engine upgrade, so the A380 would be stuck with older generation engines while both contemporary and new model aircraft benefit from newer engines. I guess the engine manufacturers' calculus is largely concerned with volume, but it's also a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

After reading that article I wasn't surprised when, perusing the Wikipedia pages for the new A220 (Bombardier CS300), Embraer E-Jet E2, Russian Irku MC-21, and Mitsubishi Regional Jet, I discovered that all the new planes at the small end of the market--a market that both Boeing and Airbus turned away from just a few years ago--are sporting a variant of Pratt & Whitney's new geared turbofan. It seems like in today's environment it's the engine that makes or breaks the plane.

The big reason for the A380 was a bet on hub and spoke models, your points above feed into that calculation. Boeing was also looking at something similar but decided that people would rather fly point-to-point rather than go hub to spoke. The 787 can land at almost any airport while the A380 can't. For capacity increase the 777-X will help fill that gap with a much better range than the A380.

What I remember reading about the decision to launch the A380 is that at the time where the B747 was in hot demand, Boeing had no competitor for the jumbo jet, and used that as a point of pressure on airlines: you’d better order Boeing for smaller jets if you want a nice price and place in the queue for the B747. So that likely weighted on the decision to launch the A380. But I remember at that time, it wasn’t an obvious decision to make (not the least because airports had to redesign their gates to accomodate such a large plane).

I've long held the opinion that Airbus had no choice but to build the A380. The 747 was a hen with golden eggs and gave Boeing an entrenched position from which they could play advantage in other market segments.

Killing the hen, even at a loss at face cost, was something Airbus had to do to even out the playing field.

The A380 will last quite a while on long-haul routes with lots of passengers between busy airports. There's no other plane that allows cramming 500+ passengers into the same departure slot, and places like LAX and LHR don't have many departure slots to spare.

Emirates makes heavy use of the A380 because they are geographically forced to operate on a hub-n-spoke model. The same is true for other heavy A380 users such as Qantas, Singapore, and Korean Air. All of them fly primarily out of a small number of hubs. They simply can't do point-to-point. There are also lots of A380's flying between major cities across the Pacific, such as LAX and Seoul, Honolulu and Tokyo, etc. where there's enough demand to fill an A380 every day.

Are the really long haul flights (17+ hrs) going to be using A380? I could see more flights on these routes to increase capacity.

Last time I checked, some airlines did use the A380 for 17-hour flights such as Dallas-Sydney and Dubai-Auckland.

But other aircraft like B777-200LR, B787-9, A340 and A350 also have a similar (or even greater) range, so it will be more economical to use these smaller twinjets unless there's a lot of demand. Even if there is enough demand, it might make more business sense to offer four flights a week instead of two.

Your analysis is wrong from many points.

There is a huge market for the plane.

The plane came too early. Build now with lighter materials, better engines and in the long version (the wings are designed for a much longer version, this also makes it heavy for the short version).

Is there a demand for such flights from Chicago to NYC? No.

But Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Deli, Mumbai via hubs such as Moscow, Istanbul or Addis there is.

So unfortunately the truth is, that there is a market, but the plane come too early. In fact, the Airbus CEO said exactly this in an interview.

There isn't a huge market for the plane. The primary customer is Emirates, who have 109 of them. The next closest, SA, have 24. If you exclude Emirates altogether, the global buy-in for the 380 is 125 units. The remainder of the production run will primarily be to Emirates.

If there was a huge market for the plane, then airlines would have been lining up to buy them. A huge market would be the 787, which started production in 2011 and has delivered 789 of them on 1421 orders.

You misunderstood my post. I said, there is market for this type of plane, but not for the A380. I was 10 years too early.

- Needs other engines

- Needs to be lighter

- Needs to be bigger. The wings are build for the long version.

The question is, how much does it cost to bring one (price sensitive) customer to the hub? The A380 was the right idea based on size, but too early and failed on price.

I think the responses above understand your post, you are just referring to a plane that does not exist, and does not exist in a viable roadmap. A more ideal A380 might work, but Emirates is stuck having to continue buying the current production line, and not the future development. If anything, it sounds like it was 30 years too early.

There is zero proof of what you are saying, also some down right things that are just plain wrong.

Longer body, I believe.

I strongly doubt it: larger planes simply don't sell, this is not specific to the A380. Let's look one size below:

On Airbus side the second biggest airliner is the A350-1000: very light, top notch engines -> 170 orders so far, very underwhelming, and the project of a bigger A350-2000 has been postponed due to a lack of interest. On Boeing side the 777-9 (not yet flying) has even more modern engines, a super light wing, and besides Emirates nobody is buying it...

For an aircraft that is not yet flying, the 777-9 has pretty healthy demand from multiple airlines. Lufthansa, Etihad, Qatar, All Nippon, and Singapore have all placed orders. Iran Airlines as well, although nullified by trade embargoes. The bigger 777-10x is also selling well.

777-8 has 53 sales, and 777-9 has 273 sales, so a total of 326 firm orders. The 777-10 is not for sale, so it's certainly not selling well... 326 firm orders is pretty good, don't get me wrong, but the order book doesn't look super healthy: only 8 airlines, and 46% of the orders for Emirates. With Etihad troubled finances, that might go down to 7 airlines.

The order book has depth, but lack breadth. I've often heard the critical size for a widebody is at least 400 sales to 20 airlines. 400 sales to achieve economy of scales, and 20 airlines to have a healthy secondary market. The 777X is not far from the 400 sales, but has some ways to go to find 20 customers. The A330NEO is in a similar but reversed situation: 278 orders for 15 customers (including a couple of lessors). The breadth is nearly there, but not the depth.

I think you mean SQ / SIA / Singapore Airlines. South African doesn't operate any A380s.

The A380 was planned for a world where people travel between big hubs before hopping to another flight to reach their destination. That world exists only for a small amount of destinations and for most other routes the A380 would be mostly empty and therefore widely uneconomical to use. Instead bireactor planes are now allowed to travel further and further away, making region to region traffic a lot more realistic than 20 years ago. And that is where the traffic is increasing the most.

Creating a commercial airline is one of the most complex business endeavors one can take one. Such a huge amount of variables, along with predictions about flight technology, supply/demand, customer service, and fuel costs are a necessary part of it.

I with there was a Sim-Airline game.

There are a bunch. This looks very low-tech, but is completely free and kinda fun for a while:


This is much more slick:


But none come close to the complexity of the real thing, and the models are unrealistic/can fairly easily be "hacked" (print money by giving away flights but charging $1000 for meals, etc).

I haven't found one with the right mix of fun and complexity. They're all either super fluffy with five minutes worth of gameplay, or spreadsheet managers like EVE (without even the pretty graphics to accompany it).

Same thing for airport simulators.

I can’t remember the name at all but there was a very interesting web-based airline sim we ran when I was in school for aviation. There weren’t any fancy graphics or anything though. You just bought airplanes, set routes and prices, and managed your finances. A fiscal quarter would run every few days. It was a lot of fun!

Sorry to be that guy, but further is typically used for figurative distances, while farther is preferred for literal distances. I always remember this because it was a plot point in a crappy movie with Sean Connery.

> typically used

That wouldn't be The Avengers, would it? That movie was so bad that I've blocked out all memory of it, other than to remember how bad it was. It does tend to confuse people though when I tell them the worst movie I've ever seen was The Avengers.

In case it wasn't clear, I was NOT talking of the Marvel movie with the same name.

Thank you. I've been meaning to look that up for years.

Is it a cost vs convenience tradeoff? I'd rather travel point to point, but if the A380 is undercuts that because it's more cost-effective, many people would put up with it to save money.

That's an odd selection of cities you propose.. there's not even daily flights between some of those city pairs, let alone an a380

Nope. It is not an odd selection.

I named Asian centers. Shanghai has 20 Million people. The Yangtze Delta is an aggregation of probably around 200 Million people. So I named big population centers in Asia. The big airlines in Singapore and Hongkong have declined a lot. They are missing the hinterland, they can't serve as hubs for China anymore. The same will be happening in UAE. Etihad airlines has problems already.

So what are the future hubs for Asia<>Europe and Asia<> Africa?

1. Moscow. Aeroflot is most of the time the cheapest airline from China to Europe.

2. Istanbul and Turkish Airlines. I think no other airlines serves more countries, the new airport in Istanbul aims to be the biggest in the world in the final stage.

3. Addis Abeba and Ethiopian airlines. Addis will be the future hub of Africa (Ethiopia has more than 100MM People). At the same time they will hurt the UAE airlines a lot. Also see: https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/ethiopi...

Now, I never claimed that there are now A380 flights. But this would be the market, had the plane be build 10 years later and in the stretched version. Not for a flight Moscow to Frankfurt. Not for a flight Addis to Entebbe. But definitely for Shanghai to Moscow. Guangzhou to Addis. Etc. etc. Bring customers from big centers to the Hub. The Hub must have

- good geo-location

- government backing

- enough local customers (e.g. Moscow vs. Dubai)

I fly a lot between Asia, Africa and Europe (All three alliances Gold Elite :-) ). I think I know what I am talking about.

It's an odd selection as population size isn't indicative of aircraft size. Congestion of airports and slot constraints is.

Which is why you find most A380s in Dubai, London and on long haul routes like LAX and SYD. EVA flies 2 77W back-to-back on LAX-TPE within half an hour.

Istanbul doesn't even have a single A380 gate. None of the airlines you mentioned ever flew an A380 either.

"It's an odd selection as population size isn't indicative of aircraft size. Congestion of airports and slot constraints is."

I disagree. Since it is the wrong solution for the problem.

> Which is why you find most A380s in Dubai, London

I am not surprised that it did not work for this airlines.

"Istanbul doesn't even have a single A380 gate." Not sure what you mean with this. I was talking about the new airport and the airport is prepared for the A380, see link. Again, the A380 is the right solutions in size, it is just wrong in cost performance because it came 10 years too early.


With enough capacity, airlines would rather fly 10x A350/B787 between two major cities rather than 5x A380. Offers more choice to the customers (as already for JFK-LAX where you often have a flight every 30 min), saves fuel and makes airlines less vulnerable to idiosyncratic events (e.g. crew sickness or technical fault).

> So what are the future hubs [...]

I see a problem with your assesment right there in your assumption that large hubs will still be a thing in the future. It's becoming more and more obvious that this won't be the case.

The reason why Moscow is cheap is partially geopolitical. Airlines are not particularly fond on their planes getting shot down by military.

Aeroflot is cheap, and other Russian airlines. Flying through Moscow with anything but Russian airlines is not as cheap as one would expect. The reason is that Moscow has decided to limit the amount of permits that would allow an airline to operate within it's airspace to one per country. Flying over Russia would be the best choice when flying between Europe and Asia cost wise if not for the limited availability and cost of the permit.

And please, don't be allured to Aeroflot due to the cheap flights, it's not an experience worth having.

Aeroflot is one of the best airlines.

Good service

Fair bonus miles

Super cheap dog transportation

One of the most modern fleets

Very cheap tickets.

Not sure why your experience was so bad. By the way, the stock performance reflects my points. They must be doing something right and they pay dividends.

I'm actually interested in how much did that affect any flight plans in the long term. Do any airlines use another route of going over potential conflict territories is the most economic? I know there was a lot of rerouting immediately after the incident.

The avoided Ukrainian/Russian airspace after the incident.


That's the "immediately after" part I meant. What I'd like to know is if the new routes were kept.

Some like Qantas avoided it before the incident

Maybe flying a Russian airline is a good way to insure you won't get shot down flying over Russian / Ukrainian airspace (which is hard to avoid if you're flying Europe to Asia)

Majority of Europe-Asia (southwest, south, southeast) flights route via Turkey/Iraq/Gulf or Romainia/Black Sea/Georgia/Turkmenistan -- especially since MH17.

Those heading to East Asia tend to fly over northern Russia, well away from Ukraine

Here[0] are planes avoiding Ukraine

[0] http://imgur.com/EbNXLpXl.png

Ukraine is a small country, easy to avoid. The GP was talking about Russia in general though, which is much harder to avoid. The traffic to East Asia is far greater and more important than that to Southeast.

The last time a plane was shot down over Russian airspace was KE007 in 1983

International flight paths over Russia are a large source of money for the country, Russia isn't going to shoot down any airlines.

The fact that russian army shot down MH17 from occupied territory doesn't change much really.

Correct. That was over Ukraine, and airlines responded by not routing over an active warzone

If a plane were shot down over Siberia, planes would reroute away from Siberia, meaning Russia loses overfly money.

Unless the scenario is that Russia comes out and says "we'll shoot down non-Russian airlines", in which case Russian airlines are no longer allowed to fly to other countries, and Russia is cut off from the rest of the world, and we go back to routing via Iran or Alaska (perhaps non-stop). It's an extra 1300 miles from London to Tokyo via those routes, 1200 miles to Beijing, 1000 to Shanghai, and only 600 miles to Hong Kong / Chengdu

It'd be annoying, but not even as bad as when it was the USSR.

Russia meanwhile would collapse economically.

There are huge numbers of people in these cities flying international every day. I agree the hubs may not be right but between LHR, FRA, DXB, SIN and the supersize megacities it makes sense to fly 380 to maximize landing slot efficiency.

The problem with the A380 is not really it's size. You're right that there will always be big cities with slot-constrained hub airports where big aircraft make sense.

The real problem is that the A380 is falling behind other modern aircraft on its operating costs.

Being able to carry an extra 100-150 pax is nice, but when each seat costs 20-30% more per mile in fuel compared to a 777X or an A350, then most airlines will choose the more fuel-efficient models.

Is there something inherent in the A380 design that makes it less fuel-efficient, or is it just that the engines are of an older design than the newest planes?

(I'm guessing it may be as simple as there's 4 engines instead of 2?)

It's simple diminishing returns to size efficiency.

There's a saying in aviation that goes something like "it takes a lot of fuel to fly a lot of fuel". Even over the course of a single flight, the fuel consumption rate goes down significantly as that fuel gets consumed. You can fit more stuff in a bigger plane, but it takes more fuel to fly the 100,000th pound than it does to fly the 100th pound, so you only want the larger capacities if you know that you are going to consistently utilize them.

That's certainly a factor, but there's more to it.

- A380 is heavier, per seat, than newer aircraft designs which are making use of advanced composites, new technologies that reduce the weight of wiring, etc.

- A380's engines are older models which are less efficient than the latest-generation engines fitted to the 777X and A350

- Aircraft with 4 engines have higher operating costs than 2. Additional fuel burn, maintenance expenses, etc.

Obviously some of this could be improved if Airbus were to have developed an upgraded version of the A380 (and Rolls-Royce it's engines). There was talk of both a new-engine A380neo and a stretched A380-900 at one point. But clearly, the market was judged to be too small to justify the substantial development costs.

While the points you make are true, they don't address the parent's hypothesis about engines, which is true. Once you get into commercial jetliner engine sizes, the fewer the number of engines for a given thrust level, assuming equivalent internal technology, the lower your fuel burn will be. It's a matter of minimizing unavoidable per-engine losses, like bearing losses, cooling losses, endgap leaks in rotor tip regions, etc. These kinds of losses do amortize well with engine size.

Is there something inherent in the A380 design that makes it less fuel-efficient, or is it just that the engines are of an older design than the newest planes?

I have read that the Boeing 747 sits at some local maxima in design space, and to get larger, the Airbus A380 compromised by having a higher wing loading. This would reduce fuel efficiency a bit.

The 777X isn't even flying right now.

When airlines are looking to buy aircraft in 2021, they'll have a choice between A350, A380, and 77X.

Very few situations will call for a new A380.

And given A350-1000 and 777-8/9 order books, very few situations call for even these...

Most of the traffic growth is being eaten by the smaller planes that are getting quite a bit bigger: 50 regional seaters are being replaced by 100 seaters, A319/A320 are being replaced by A320/A321, etc. Meanwhile the bigger planes are getting smaller: 747 being downsized to 777-300ER, A350-900 or even 787-9.

It's not far away. The first aircraft have already been completed, and deliveries should start next year.

Not really. This was the argument Airbus previously gave to justify their continuing losses on the program. The reality is much simpler - smaller jets to more places (no matter if it's hub to hub or hub to spoke or point to point) fragments the market, and makes it impossible to concentrate enough demand to consistently fill a A380 at a specific price point.

This trend is really clear in the aviation business. The 757 and 767 really killed four or three engine engine trans-Atlantic (the single most important international route system), while the 787 killed four engines across the pacific.

The smallest plane, with the most reasonable CASM (cost per available seat mile) at the highest frequency wins.

Some of the highest passenger counts per year are between Osaka-Tokyo or Sapporo-Tokyo or Seoul-Jeju or Shanghai-Beijing. And yet I don't see 380s on those routes...

There's a point at which the time spent boarding becomes too great considering the time in the air. The A380 is a large plane, and you really need 3 jetways to board it in any amount of reasonable time. The mentioned routes are mostly operated by 767s, 787s, 777s, or 330s. The 767 is the perfect plane for the route, and the 330 isn't half bad. TPE-HKG is another example of one of these super busy short routes.

Japan is usually a Boeing backyard.

Case in point with JAL (not sure if they fly the routes you talked about but it's as good as an example): https://www.jal.com/en/outline/aircraft.html

231 aircrafts, not a single Airbus.

yes if you look at busiest routes you will find the top few dominated by short domestic routes less than 1000-1500 km. you run a short range plane like the a320 or the 737 and fly the route 100s of times a day. it's much cheaper than running a few a380s.

the a380s are almost only used for long range flights with 1 or 2 flights a day: sydney-dubai-heathrow, singapore-london, singapore-frankfurt-new york etc.

And smaller planes flying more frequently yield a better experience for the customer, too. There's more flight times to choose from, boarding doesn't take as long, and there's many more jetways available for smaller planes at airports.

ANA operates the 777 on those routes, hell I've even seen it flown on Tokyo-Hiroshima and it was full. A case could certainly be made for the A380 on Tokyo-Osaka.

You would need 15 doors to fill them fast enough.

I'd say it's more for big city to big city. NYC to London, Tokyo to Paris, SF to Hong Kong... There are already dozens of flights per days between those.

For that flights, a huge airplane makes sense.

> NYC to London

No A380s on this route. There are 32 flights each way, 28 from Heathrow.

BA/AA operate 12 daily flights LHR-JFK, pretty much one ever 90 minutes during the day, it's pretty much a turn up and go service. Virgin/Delta do another 8 flights, again turn-up and go.

That frequency attracts the people on flexible tickets. Those on the cheapest flights they find on skyscanner will probably take the norweigan 787s from Gatwick.

That market for flexibility doesn't exist between say London and Singapore (I suspect most are transferring at least at one end), but there's plenty of passengers looking to travel, and so you get 4 of the 7 flights over 3 carriers are on A380s.

> it's pretty much a turn up and go service

Assuming you have a flexible ticket, which the overwhelming majority of passengers don't.

Tried asking BA/AA to move to an earlier flight on a non-flex ticket? "Computer says no, unless you pay $lots"

On BA all business class tickets are changable for a nominal fee (about 5% of the cost of a return ticket). It's that flexibility that means people pay £6k return for the cheapest business class LON-NY ticket.

Sure, if you're flying on the "cheapest flight on skyscanner" then you don't get the flexibility, but that's why they don't fly 6 A380s rather than 12 smaller planes, they want the £6k tickets to choose BA/AA rather than VS/DL. The £600 return tickets at the back will fly whoever's cheapest.

>> BA all business class tickets are changable for a nominal fee

That's a sweeping claim.

Pick a highly-discounted business class fare LON-NYC-LON for dates well in advance which books into I fare bucket.

I close the ILX1C1S6 fare, out 25 Dec 2019, back 1 Jan 2020. (The base fare is GBP1271 r/t...)

Either do a dummy booking at BA.com, or go to ExpertFlyer[0] and the fare rules. Find the 'PENALTIES' section:




[0] www.expertflyer.com

I looked at a selection of business class fares (including fares booking into I buckets) a couple of weeks in advance and all were changeable for £300.

"Almost all" then, especially when you factor in corporate deals

Which route(s)? Were you including a Sat night stay?

At BA.com I've just looked up LON-NYC-LON out 6 Mar back 13 Mar (so just over two weeks from now), and I'm seeing the same complete lack of flex:

Your ticket conditions

Changes to your ticket No changes permitted. No upgrades permitted

Refunds There are no refunds except for any government & airport taxes

Also I guess if you are running 12 flights you can adjust the number to demand and say do 10 or 8 in low season. It'd be less easy to do that with the A380.

If you have somewhere else for the planes to go, and the slots and agreements, yes.

BA ran an empty flight from Heathrow to Cardiff for a while to keep a slot at Heathrow.

Where capacity allows, serving a route multiple times with small planes is preferred by airlines and customers. And even if slots are restricted, offering less capacity than demand (driving up prices) can be more profitable than trying to offer service to anyone who's willing to book.

Long range versions of single-aisle planes also change the dynamics a bit, putting less focus on hubs.

This is kind of what I was thinking - or even that the plane is not just too early, but too small - there was talk of building a stretched A380.

> the wings are designed for a much longer version, this also makes it heavy for the short version

Make it even a bit longer, and takeoff performance will tank so much, that you will need even longer runways

I'm skeptical they will run for decades, two early model a380 which were on a ten year lease to Singapore were recently returned to the lessor. They tried to find buyers for them and couldn't. They're being scrapped for spare parts now.

These were the first two planes off the line and they were significantly heavier and performed much worse than most of the other 380s. Singapore Airlines got rid of them for that very reason, while still taking delivery of new 380s. This is why they weren't attractive to any buyers.

Note one of the early SQ 380s is now operated by Portuguese charter airline Hi Fly.

I wouldn't count of the first two's demise being indicative of secondary value of all aircrafts of the type.

Knowing the state of things and the history of the project I'm not much surprised by this, yet I'm a bit taken aback that this indeed has come to pass.

You can't beat the laws of physics. I've read somewhere that the Boeing 747 sat in some kind of design configuration sweet spot. The A380 achieved a larger size by taking on a higher wing loading than what was ideal.

As far as I know, Boeing was selling smaller planes at a loss or at very near a loss and subsidizing it with the 747's. Hence Airbus made the A380's. The A380 was not meant to profit, but to stop Boeing from subsidizing other smaller planes.

If true that didn't work out so well for them.

Can these fly with two engines?

Could one be setup to only do LAX<-->SFO on constant rotation?

> Can these fly with two engines?

In an emergency, yes. But they can't take off with two engines. And if they are cruising with only two engines they go a lot slower.

> Could one be setup to only do LAX<-->SFO on constant rotation?

Yes, but it would be foolish. The plane was designed for long-haul flights, and it would be ridiculously un-economical on a short route.

As a Boeing employee once explained it to me:

If you take off two engines, you have to redesign the wings. If you’re redesigning the wings, you might as well do the whole aircraft.

Implication being that the fuselage is a fraction of the cost of an airplane design.

I've heard that too. From an engineering POV, the aircraft _is_ the wings, and the fuselage is a simple tube in comparison.

I believe briefly a 380 did a sub 1hr flight in the ME possibly during crew training but with real commuter traffic

BA flew them London - Paris for a short while early on. It was kind of ridiculous, not least because embarking/disembarking such a big plane took about as long as the flight.

Emirates used the A380 for short-haul traffic but rotated planes so that they would only fly short-haul occasionally. Wear and tear would otherwise be too high.

I think in China there is a scheduled A380 China Southern Airlines service Guangzhou to Shanghai.

Much more sensible to just use a designed-for-two-engines plane like the 777X as that point, even assuming the A380 even could do it (which it can't). And if 2 engines were the minimum it needed to fly, then it would actually need to use 3 engines, so that it could survive an engine failure. If you only have 2 engines spun up and you needed both of those and 1 goes out, you've lost your redundancy. You might not even be able to get another engine spun up before you hit the ground.


SFO hasa their passsenger data online with Tableau-BI like tools...


Trying to determine passenger counts per week between SFO and [biggest destination] and see what if you just had an A380 ONLY doing that route back and forth, with low cost tickets if you can fly 500 people there each flight.

RyanAir for SFO, so to speak.

A shame. I've flown the A380 from SFO to Frankfurt, and man was that a nice flight. There was a noticeable difference in my jet lag. And when I first got on, I was sure the row number was wrong or there were skipped rows or something, but no, I just kept walking and walking and sure enough eventually I got to row 90!

Both the A380 and 787 are able to maintain higher humidity in the cabin, which helps a lot during long flights. You don't get as dehydrated and you're more likely to be able to get some decent sleep.

Also, higher cabin pressure

Also less affected by turbulence. Also more room to walk around and stretch. Also more space above your head.

The greatest passenger jet in history.

Pretty sure the A350 does this as well. Asiana also uses the LED lighting modes to great effect and it was explained to me as another way to reduce long haul fatigue

I second the comments about this wonderful plane delivering a superior experience. I used to fly Manchester (UK) - DXB - Melbourne and loved every second of being in economy on one of these. Flying with Emirates even in the cheap seats is always exciting with great food and drink, so much so I'd arrive at my destination both drunk and hungover, but feeling good because of the nice clean air and quiet ride of the A380. Flying on the 777 or with a carrier like Etihad isn't even a comparable experience. The little things really count on a long-haul flight so that little bit more legroom, comfort, and class that the A380 gives makes flying on one a real treat, even if you are flying with 500 other people. Big shame there weren't more customers for Airbus, and more carriers couldn't make this plane work for them.

Unfortunately not all carriers give more space to economy passengers in an A380. Qatar Airways for example, pack the seats in just as tight. I actively choose against A380s for my long flights because the aircraft feels like a flying city as opposed to a flying village. An A350 or 787 provide a far superior passenger experience in my opinion.


I remember when the A380 was starting to get some public media attention and there were these great sounding potential-perks of these new super jumbos: an on-board gym! a library! a creche! perhaps even an on-board casino!

In hindsight it was perhaps inevitable that all that extra space would just mean more people packed in just as tight as they are on smaller planes.

While I am sure its very nice up in first class, my A380 experience has been as soul-destroying and uncomfortable as any other plane.

I got to experience first class in a BA A380 flight once since it was cheaper than business class and my company was paying.

This is probably going to sound like the pinnacle of first world problems, but: it's overrated. The main differences between business and first were getting actual bedding and having more attendants per passenger. And three types of champagne, because obviously just one isn't enough. The food was slightly better than in business but nothing outstanding.

There's a huge step up from economy to business since you get the lie-flat seats you can actually sleep comfortably in and good food/alcohol. Beyond that, you're mainly paying for exclusivity and status.

BA A380 first class is pretty lacking. The saying is that it's "the world's best business class". I flew it over and back from ORD to LHR and it was enjoyable but it can't touch the Emirates A380 experience in F.

Other carriers have some pretty amazing first class products on the A380, with a bar and a shower.

I've had a couple of flights with the A380. Basically once you are inside it's just another airplane that just happens to be big. I was on a A330 once as well and they are similarly nice and probably make more sense economically. I imagine the same is true for the 350.

The 747 can be OK but not if it's a decades old one in need of renovation/retirement. Lufthansa had a few really old ones operating between Frankfurt and Boston until quite recently. The difference with the A330 I had on the same route. But I'd take Lufthansa on a 747 over their partner United on pretty much anything. The last few times I made a point of booking such that I was on a Lufthansa operated plane both ways.

I'm guessing that the limiting factor for the airbus was that it needed specialized infrastructure at airports and that most smaller airports just never got around to bothering with that; thus limiting where you can fly with them. This was always a risk and probably became more of a burden when it became clear it wasn't selling well.

> Basically once you are inside it's just another airplane that just happens to be big

That's not true at all, the cabin noise in the A380 is so much quieter than in older planes. It's night and day.

This. I nicknamed this plane the « magic carpet ». It does not feel at all like you are taking off or landing. More like a train moving in 3 dimensions.

Thirded. A wonderful experience that made me proud such a feat of engineering could be partly executed in the UK.

I flew first class on the Emirates A380 earlier this year. It's an experience like none other. It's completely absurd and unnecessary but simultaneously incredible and nearly unbeatable. It's an unreal feeling to take a shower at 40,000', or to drink a Manhattan over Iran, or to experience a lively cocktail bar at 3AM over Northern Greenland. Unless you own a Boeing Business Jet, you're probably not going to be able to do that. It's a taste of the 0.1% that's in reach for mere mortals if you know the right routes. The typical first class A380 ride from the US to or from the Middle East or most of Asia will run anywhere from $9,000-15,000 one-way. However, if you're willing to fly out of Colomobo, Sri Lanka, you can sometimes do this trip for less than $5,000. A flight from Bangkok to Houston via Dubai will get you a 777-300ER ride (itself an experience) plus a 16-hour A380 ride.

If you want to see what it's like, I posted some pics:


A380 is the smoothest and quietest aircraft I've flown in, and those things really make a difference if you're flying 16 hours from SFO to DXB.

I just did this flight last Friday. 16-odd hours, with a slight delay, and I got off the plane without the usual chapped lips and dry throat. To add to what others have said, the 380 has the quietest take off and landing. It’s an engineering marvel.

In contrast, while the 787 is good, the cabin is louder and the air quality isn’t on par with the 380. Even if this is deemed a failure, the 380 spurred the industry to do more, made Boeing do more for the 787, and eventually led to the development of the A-350 which is my favorite plane to fly right now.

All in all, the 380 gave Airbus swagger and the license to seriously compete with Boeing. Costs be damned.

Update: light punctuation edits

I've read a few posts on here about people getting off their A380 flights feeling better sans dry throats, chapped lips, etc. I find that a bit odd, as the A380 still uses bleed air systems, unlike the A350 and 787 which use filtered air. All other factors being equal, there should be no difference between air quality on a 777 and A380. Perhaps I'm missing something?

All bleed systems are filtered. The comparison you meant to make is between bleed air and air delivered by electric compressors, as on the 787.

The A350 & A380 (and all current Airbus airliners) use bleed air from the engines, just like all other airliners bar the 787.

The reason that people feel better after long flights on more modern aircraft like the A380, A350 and 787 than they do on older aircraft is due to lower cabin altitude and thus higher cabin humidity, which is largely down to the use of more composites in the construction, which can handle the higher humidity without corrosion problems. This better cabin environment is possible with bleed air or with electric compressors.

As an aside, the 787 also offers some protection from "fume events" (leakage of combustion byproducts or oil fumes from the engine into the cabin) since it doesn't use bleed air. However, there's still oil in the electric compressors so there's still some (much diminished) risk of fume events.

The likelihood of an incident like that even with a bleed air system is rather tiny, considering the air comes from the cold bypass section of the engines, and there's a redundancy in that multiple engines are available to provide it. If all your engines are emitting fumes, you have bigger problems than the air quality in the cabin (and you have oxygen masks to deal with it)

Fume events are rare as long as you define them as being above regulated threshold of contaminants in the cabin. This is fine for most people, but others (my partner included) have sensitivities to the contaminants, which trigger neurological symptoms whenever she flies, even in "safe" conditions. These days she wears a mask whenever flying and doesn't get symptoms - except the 787, where it's not necessary.

Before we worked out the issue (the risk of which really should be communicated by airlines) she was sicks for weeks after flying. And although unlikely, she once was caught in a fume event and couldn't work for months. Others on the plane were badly affected too. This is serious stuff and the 787 is great progress.

It's true that fume events are rare, but they do happen. It seems that leaking seals are one cause. If you search aviation incident databases there seem to be one or two reported fume events somewhere in the world per month on average, which is indeed a tiny incidence compared to the volume of air traffic.

There is actually quite a few fume evenths monthly, and a rather concerning report[1] from one of them.

[1] http://avherald.com/h?article=4b6eb830/0006&opt=7168

>"fume events" (leakage of combustion byproducts or oil fumes from the engine into the cabin)

is that why the cabin of airplanes smell like jet fuel for the first few minutes of rake-off?

Fume events are usually described as smelling like dirty socks or a wet dog. There was a fume event a few years ago that ended up going very badly for one of the pilots:


The fuel smell at the beginning of the flight might just be happening because the engines and/or APU are ingesting the exhaust of the aircraft in front of you while on the taxiway, and some of that exhaust smell ends up in the bleed air that eventually enters the cabin.

I actually feel the difference most for B787, less exhausted and not as dehydrated after 8+ hour flights. A reason for me to book B787 wherever possible. I believe the A350 should be similar but wasn't able to test it yet on long-haul.

A380 is relatively quiet but air quality isn't really comparable with the Dreamliner.

I'm really curious what this is btw. I read so much about the 787 having a better cabin atmosphere but all my 787 flights where quite underwhealming and the automatically controlled window shades at least on two BA flights I was on where really frustrating because they simulated night until right the moment we were landing and then it propelled me into late afternoon sunlight conditions. I absolutely hated that sensation.

Can airplanes have a different cabin pressure? If so, maybe A380 has it higher, and in theory that should help to avoid dehydration.

Yes, newer aircraft have a lower cabin “altitude”. They also have higher humidity since there are more compositie materials and less risk of rust.

The A380 and 787 use exactly the same aircon packs, just more of them in the former case.

Here's another praise this plane, in my case LHR-LAX.

Back in 2016 I found an offer I could not stop myself from booking: NCE-LHR-LAX-HNL for 345EUR roundtrip. It was 36 hours per bound, but for 10 days in Hawaii from Europe I was ready to bear with that.

Well, that LHR-LAX leg was gonna be my longest flight ever and I was worried about my state on arrival, but it was easily the most comfortable leg of the whole trip vs A319, A321 and B777 of the other legs, even being significantly shorter.

Wow, what's your secret method for getting such a great deal?

I have been keep an eye on Scott's Cheap Flights (https://scottscheapflights.com/), haven't seen anything so spectacular!

thanks for the hint!

Wow. That is quite the deal!

Absolutely agree, I fly long distance a lot and really really enjoy flying in the A380, specifically due to the air quality and feeling of space it has. I usually try to pick this plane flying out of SFO so I reallu hope that this plane will be in service for a long time to come.

I have a tendency to get air sick on my first flight after not having flown in a while. Not with the A380... virtually no turbulence and that flight felt solid and smooth. Take off, landing, and everything in between. Toronto -> Dubai economy class.

Our seats were just in front of lavatory but I had absolutely zero complaints (no smell, no nothing). Did not mind the foot traffic (peaky after meals) due to location but I can see how that could bother others.

Seconded. No other aircraft I've flown in comes close, and I've flown in a lot of airplanes.

A lot of the praise for the 787 is I think the effect of a huge marketing push from Boeing.

Yeah, no idea about the economics of these planes, but flying one with Emirates to Dubai was really pleasant. The regular economy class was more like premium economy on other planes.

I've only flown in an A380 once, business class from London to Miami, but I'd agreee with this 100%. Very nice ride!

A380 has three economic advantages:

1. Landing slot price per passenger is low. Congested airports are the economic reason for A380 to exist.

2. A380 is runway-friendly large aircraft due to its wheel load distribution and low load per wheel. Airfield pavement maintenance cost is 30-40 percent of the airfield maintenance. If the weight based pricing is changed to match actual runway damage, A380 will do really well.

3. Relative to 747-400, significantly better fuel efficiency.

Economically A380 starts to make sense again in 10-20 years after the traffic volumes in Asia skyrocket. When the demand exceeds the slots available, the value of existing A380s starts to increase.

The fall off of hub and spoke as dual engine aircraft could legally and safely makes such huge aircraft far less appealing. Clearly the market exists, but aircraft last long enough that Airbus is in many ways competing with it’s self for a sill limited number of viable routes.

Remeber, a hub and spoke trip means 2-3x the landings and relies on extremely congested airports. So, point to point has significantly shifted what gets congested. Things may look different in 25 years, but that’s a long time.

High population density cities in Asia inevitably create the same economic conditions as the hub and spoke model. Busy airports with high volume of traffic and high capacity rate.

All estimates point to the future where there will be multiple mega-airports with more than 100 million passengers in Asia.

Look at how many mid sized aircraft still travel from or to large airports. With a point to point system you can load balance to so flight at major cities use an equally large aircraft which makes a dramatic difference. Eventually, they might need something like an A380, but that’s further into the future than you might think and often balanced by building a few more airports.

Large Aircraft are great economically, as long as they can be kept full. But, this tends to be limited as only a tiny fraction of routes can support such beasts.

When the point in point to point systems are big enough, they are equal to hubs in hubs and spoke system. When there are tens of millions people in one spot and airports construction is limited due to land price, that's a hub.

IATA estimates point to several new 100m airports in 10-15 years.

Tradional Hubs did not send jumbo’s to smaller airports. The average flight into and out of an airport was still relatively small. At the same time, it also artificially increased the numbers of flights which dramatically increased traffic.

Now, sure with continued growth eventually you need larger aircraft. But, while demand might pick up they have plenty of time to design a successor especially as they can simply look at 747-800 sales numbers.

Hub and spoke models still dominate for all major carriers. True point to point routes, where neither the origin nor destination are hubs, are an extremely tiny minority of all routes flown. Some regional airlines (such as southwest) fly pseudo point to point, but really that is just spoke->hub->minihub->spoke and isn't feasible outside of the short routes that regional airlines make.

What has actually happened is that hubs became more numerous and smaller. A major airline might have 6 hubs instead of 2. And most long distance trips are done with 2 legs instead of 3.

There is a vast difference between 6 mini hubs and 2 major ones, especially when different airlines have different mini hubs. It’s a lowest hanging fruit change especially and airlines are trying to minimize hops which really makes a difference.

Remember, mini hubs are near major destinations so people are very likely to be starting or stopping at one, Combined with different airlines 1 hops vs 2 or 3 is common, but more so 2 hops vs 3 or 4.

Possibly. Some are already rotting on the runways, at least two of Malaysia's A380 are just sitting there away from gate collecting dust everytime I fly out of KL (I think MH3/4 is still A380 though), there was plan to sell them to some middle east charter company and refit them in an all economy mode so they could take 600 people to walk around a stone chanting once a year - I doubt they could be refitted back to their former glory after this abuse. Also, hasn't Emirates parked many at a secondary airport too whilst they re-evaluate their schedules and deny pilot shortages? I can't find the article but if I remember correctly it was mainly A380, whilst the 777s were kept on the main schedule.

Shame, best economy class by far. 10 across on a 777 is tortue as is 9 on the new sardineliners.

I highly doubt there will be such an abundance of oil in 20 years that the billions of people you are referring to will be shooting through the stratosphere.

Critics will often point at hub and spoke versus point to point as the primary reason for Airbus's debacle, the problem is basically much simpler - not a single United States airline orders the A380. At the time of the A380's introduction, more then half of world wide airlift was located in the United States. The numbers are less now, but it's still the largest seat market by a insane margin world wide. The US carriers were almost wiped out by the irrational exuberance when the initial 747 came out. They were always skeptical about their ability to fill consistently a A380, given market dynamics. It doesn't matter how much more efficient you are with a bigger plane, if you can't fill a seat, economically it simply spoills - you take all the cost of the airplane, the fuel, the pilots, etc (CASM) but none of the revenue (RASM). I've flown on enough empty upper decks on the A380 to know this is a huge issue.

> Critics will often point at hub and spoke versus point to point as the primary reason for Airbus's debacle, the problem is basically much simpler - not a single United States airline orders the A380.

The second arguments seems like support for the first one, not an alternative explanation.

I took the A380 probably more than 40 times on different routes altogether.

I hope that current companies (Lufthansa, Airfrance, Qantas) will keep it for a long time. It is always a pleasure to fly in it. And superior to the 787 in my opinion.

I hate those stupid windows of the 787 with a passion. The only joy of being flown in a can is to look out through the windows.

You should like the 787 then, the windows are quite a bit larger. I don't mind the dimming feature, it takes a moment but it works, and I like the ability to have partial dimming. The only thing I don't love is when they're controlled by the crew automatically.

the ability of the crew to take away the dimming control is precisely why I hate them so much.

I found the crew's control of the dimming function far too aggressive on Air India. Even on a midday flight at 1330, the windows were dimmed all throughout till we landed at around 2200. It didn't help that I couldn't sleep throughout, so it was painful to be in a cabin with next to zero natural light.

Another problem with the A380 is that although it could run more passengers through the same number of gates, airports had to rebuild the gates to accommodate the thing.

On economy long-hauls, I appreciate every config I've been on; they're roomy and the effective cabin altitude is very comfortable, so it makes flying easier.

That said, I think aviation needs to invest again in supersonic flight. I wouldn't care so much about comfort if I could take my 18-hour flight and bring it down to 10. I don't know the economics of it, but flying on a smaller, faster, higher-altitude aircraft would be more comfortable. Planes haven't really gotten faster since the dawn of the jet age.

> I think aviation needs to invest again in supersonic flight

That's what they're doing: https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/13/18089300/supersonic-jet-...

Everyone mourns it, but not to forget that there are more than 200 already built A380s in use, and they will be used probably decades from now on.

As a point of comparison, ‎1548 B747s were built and they are only now being phased out.

Is this surprising? The A380 uses nearly 50% more fuel per seat than a 787/A350. That's when its full! Then you have to fill it up too - and it doesn't go as far. It's just silly. Sure its innovative but that's not economical.

I very much doubt this is true. Just as a sanity check, the A380 has slightly more than double the fuel capacity (320 kL vs 156 kL) of the A350, and carries twice as many people.

At least at maximum fully loaded range, the fuel per seat is going to be very close. The problem starts when you're unable to fill the plane.

Stopped to watch one take off from Heathrow yesterday.

They're iconic but then so was the Concorde - being iconic is not a substitute for being commercially viable.

As someone with fear of flying, but who still has to fly from time to time, this is sad news. If I ever had to fly, I always tried to take an A380. They are so smooth in flight, take off and landing. Nothing compares.

I hope you live in Europe and often take long hauls. The A380 was built to travel from one big city to another big city. It's a beautiful plane, but it needs to be filled up with hundreds of passengers to be economical, needs a huge runway, and can only park in a handful of the largest airports in the world.

When it does that, it does it beautifully. I took a New York to Dubai flight that was top notch, even in coach in the middle aisle. That said, there's no way that plane could realistically make most domestic flights or even medium demand international ones.

Yes, living in Europe is in fact the reason why I can "enjoy" the A380.

Here in Reno, not far from the Mustang VOR, I've seen the Air France A380 flight to Paris from SFO coming over around 4pm local time on a nice warm sunny day, and even at pretty much full cruising altitude when they get out this far they are a sight to see through some good binoculars. On the ground (again for me at SFO) they look big enough to be built by aliens. RIP A380.

Have you seen a Beluga ? They are scary to see in the sky :)


Inevitably in comments about the demise of the 747 or A380, people refer to the proliferation of point to point routes. But while point to point routes have grown, hub and spoke routes have grown far more. There is an illusion of the proliferation of point to point routes caused by the proliferation of new hubs. For example, Seattle now has ~20 more direct international destinations with a year round schedule than it did 15 years ago, which makes it seem like point to point routes are more common. But careful inspection shows that every single direct international route from SEA is a hub and spoke route for the airline flying it, with either the hub in Seattle, or the hub at the destination.

When these aircraft were conceived, all industry momentum was pointed toward superhubs, and all of the superhubs were capacity constrained. Landing and takeoff slots were constrained and airports were moving to auction models to sell the slots. Terminal space was becoming more and more expensive. These planes weren't more efficient because they could move more people, they were more efficient because they didn't cost as much to land and take off and load and unload. The reality of the matter is that Boeing and Airbus didn't incorrectly forecast the decline of hub and spoke models, they incorrectly forecasted the decline of superhubs.

> But while point to point routes have grown, hub and spoke routes have grown far more.

I wish trains were lower priced. I'd much rather, say, fly to Paris then take a train to Brussels rather than take a technically shorter flight that might get delayed, or I might miss if the customs line is long.

But my choices are often expensive direct flight, cheaper hub and spoke flight - plane+train is often more expensive :(

I remember a youtube video explaining why big airplanes like the A380, while technically impressive, do not make economic sense to airlines because it's all about stopovers: it's more efficient to "ship" people with several airplanes because it allows them to land to many more airports.

Of course there are still very busy destinations, for example Los Angeles - New York, New York - London, but that's not enough air traffic so they don't need as many A380 as we would think.

The true goal of commercial airplane design is to find a plane that fits demand of a particular route, so it's always full. With an A380, you can do well on long haul popular flights, but even with those flights, you have very little flexibility if things change.

Panam invested heavily in the 747 back in the day, and they minted money by offering relatively reasonably priced international long haul flights. But when gas prices and terrorism spiked, diminishing demand, they had these huge gas guzzling planes that they couldn't fill up.

The A380 is really impressive, and it works well (now) on several specific routes. But it's clear that the industry is moving towards fuel efficient, more reasonably sized planes like the 787 and the A350 that are efficient on both long and short haul flights.

I'm surprised they aren't going to bother with trying a freighter. The 747-8F is still being sold; it's got almost twice the payload weight lift capacity of the C-17 and 88% of the lift capacity of the decades-old Antanov An-124 (though the C-17 and An-124 can have taller and wider items, like tanks and helicopters, loaded into the cargo hold than the 747-8F can).

Watched a youtube video so now I'm an expert. The A380 runs out of load capacity long before all the volume is used up so your cargo flights are moving a lot of empty plane.

Might be https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCJrg7j8Uag&t=342s from DJ Aviation that explains the problems with a A380-F.

It'd be great for transporting large amounts of packing peanuts, though.

This blog explains well why there’s no a380-F


Good points, especially the notion that a freighter version would hit the weight limit long before filling up. Makes me wonder if a secondary market could be available for air freight companies: no frills, on-our-schedule-not-yours, inexpensive hops between cargo hubs similar to how it's possible (for active duty and some military vets) to catch dirty-cheap rides on the heavy cargo lifters as long as you make your way to the US point of departure and don't mind making your way from the European/Asian/etc point of arrival.

The point of air freight is speed. "Just fit it on the plane whenever you find it convenient" kind of defeats the point.

The freight is moved expediently. The human pax ("self-loading freight") flies along cheaply whenever the freighters fly.

The A380 is a pig of a plane. For it's weight it doesn't have much cargo capacity and it costs a lot of money (fuel) to put all that aircraft weight in the air. Other cargo aircraft have a lot less aircraft weight for the amount of cargo weight the carry and that makes them far more economical. Freight is always a thin margin business. Money spent on fuel to get the cargo where it's going is just the cost of doing business. Money getting spent on fuel getting the aircraft where the cargo is going is an overhead cost to be minimized.

Also, the C-17 isn't a very good comparison because it was designed with the expectation that it would sacrifice capacity and economy for performance. When it was developed in the 90s it was very obvious that getting as many tanks as possible to France as quickly as possible (the job the C-5 was designed for) was rapidly becoming less important than the ability to utilize smaller runways in less developed nations.

Sad sad day, economy on the upper deck of an AirFrance/KLM A380 is the most quiet, most space long haul flight you can get, my default way to go Europe <--> Japan and Europe <--> US.

Airbus has new management, as the old management was wiped out by bribery scandals and retirement. They have more to come here - their is a new Indian investigation on their practices in that country, and management is keen to break with the previous regime. John Leahy - who crusaded for the plane internally at Airbus, recently retired, and with him, anyone else who had a stake in the A380 decide. The development costs of the A380 are not paid off - the launch aid - from the European governments was to be repaid in royalties per plane on a ongoing basis. The governments will find a way to sweep what remains under the covers.

Ironically, the group most at risk with this decision is Boeing. The A380 has been a total albatross and a anchor around the neck of Airbus. If Airbus hadn't been sinking in cash left and right to the A380 program, when Boeing had it's issue with the 787, Airbus could have really punished them in the market. Instead, Airbus went with a slightly warmed over A330, until the market forced them to the A350, which still wasn't as revolutionary as what the 787 brought to bear, once it finally got over it's development hurdles.

So good application of the Sunk cost fallacy here by the new Airbus leadership, and a message to Boeing that the new leadership at Airbus isn't going to be constrained by the decisions of the past.

Shame. Anyone who's flown from LAX to Sydney knows how much better the A380 is than the 7X7.

Fun dramatic video.

* Planes That Changed the World 3of3 Airbus A380 720p HDTV x264 AAC MVGroup org - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZsiAISEq7s

All the video with the trademark Airbus accent. It’s what we (French) do best, but it’s like Singlish: It sounds like we have our own dialect of English.

How do I find a route that flies on the A380, if I want to take a trip on that plane specifically?

Would the A380 have been more attractive in terms of economics if fuel subsidies were lower?

DJ Aviation has a short video with some explanation and what replaced the A380. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cmyNf13l7o

Obivously they didn't make as much money as projected then, but did they lose money on this project? Was it an acceptable product to launch, or what is airbus learning?

They probably lost a huge chunk of money but in the long run, it will probably be worth the effort. When you design something new like that, you invent and invest in new technologies that you'll use along the way.

Concorde, while a commercial failure, was a good example:

- first commercial aircraft to have fly-by-wire

- carbon brakes

- anti skid (the first electronic system as far as I know)

- center of gravity adjustment through fuel pumping (no need to trim the aicraft hence less drag)

So lots of money thrown out of the window, sure, but they'll use what they've learned...

It won't make back the 25bn euro development costs, but there's an argument that its beneficial effect on the prestige of Airbus as a manufacturer will eventually make back those costs through increased sales of other aircraft.

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