Airbus unveiled its latest attempt to boost anemic sales of its iconic A380 superject – a new design. Look at the A30plus from outside and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a grand wind-up. A couple of extra winglets at the tips of the wings, otherwise no different from the A380. But Airbus insists the improved design will lead to a 13% cost reduction per seat when compared to the A380, coming off the back of “up to” an added 4% fuel burn efficiency and extra seating capacity.
The optimised cabin layout…allows up to 80 additional seats* with no compromise on comfort: redesigned stairs, a combined crew-rest compartment, sidewall stowage removal, a new 9-abreast seat configuration in premium economy and 11-abreast in economy.
Airbus hopes to revive the fledgling fortunes of the A380, which has failed to receive a single order in the last year. In response, Airbus has slashed production to 12 in 2017 down from 27 in 2016, although Emirates airlines is in discussions to purchase another 20. The A380plus is due to enter service in 2020.
But by increasing capacity of an already mass-transit superjet, we remain unconvinced this project is satisfying a genuine commercial need. Depending on configuration, the A380-800 already has a large 550-615 passenger capacity.
What carriers really want is increased engine effeciency. Rolls-Royce has tentatively indicated it might re-visit the A380’s engine design to increase efficiency. Previous tweaks have achieved 1-1.5% improvements. Even if this project proceeds, this falls short of carriers’ demand for the A380 to adopt “neo” engines to achieve efficiency improvements in the 10% space.
Here’s Airbus’ promotion video with a mock up of the interior…
And here is a real life walk through of a test plane:
Is this a gimmick…a last throw of the dice to resuscitate a gargantuan commercial flop? Only time will tell. We’re not holding our breath.