Friday, November 02, 2007

Airbus A380 is NOT a revolution, it's the end of an era


The enormous media coverage of the very first commercial passenger carrying flight of the Airbus A380 "whalejet"as some have coined it, has been full of the hype that Singapore Airlines would have hoped for. However, I'm not going to agree with the view of many that the A380 is a revolutionary step forward - it's not. Why?
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1. It is not the "biggest plane in the world", as the Russian built Antonov An-225 took that title in 1988. However, it is the largest one to be mass produced, as there is only only An-225 to date, and it is the largest airliner.
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2. It is not a particular quantum leap in capacity, if only because many airlines are using the vastly increased floorspace to upgrade their on board product. In any case, unlike the Boeing 747 it is not a doubling of seating compared to its predecessors.
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3. It is not technologically a major leap forward compared to the last brand new large jet airliner introduced by the "big two" of Airbus and Boeing - the last was the Boeing 777. It does represent an evolution, but not a revolution.
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4. The passenger product introduced by Singapore Airlines is only an advance in First Class Suites (the now famous double beds for some), with separate cabins, and beds separate from seats. The Business Class and Economy Class products are identical to their existing Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (which, by the way, don't yet fly to New Zealand), and have been getting rolled out on those 777s for the past year.
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In short, it's bigger, quieter and the windows are a bit bigger. All very well, but that is it. You see the key difference between the A380 and future new airliners, is that it is probably the last predominantly aluminium jet airliner to be built. The next ones, the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350XWB will be predominantly carbon composite - with windows twice the size of existing airliners, a flight interior altitude substantially lower and humidity substantially higher than that of current airliners. In other words, a major change to the current experience of being dehydrated and feeling cooped in a metal tube. The A380 is a fine replacement for airlines that need a 747 or larger sized airliner, but there aren't too many of those - Air New Zealand almost certainly will never buy any.
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It's also important to dismiss the nonsense debate that the A380 competes with the 787 Dreamliner - as if airlines that need a 450 seat airliner, wouldn't need a 250 seat one or vice versa. Given that Singapore Airlines, Qantas and BA have bought both, this is a debate created by journalists interviewing their laptops. There is clearly a market for the A380, it's just for now it not enough to make it break even - 190 so far. The Boeing 787 has sold 710 so far and hasn't flown. I think we can tell which aircraft manufacturer chose the right market to target!

1 comment:

Gatholoco said...

I still prefer A380 for me.