"Contradict to most popular belief, I insist that the A380 is a plane of the future, and it just come quite ahead of its time. At one point, the A380 will restart production. And when it comes back, it will come under the name A380neo!" - Richard's thought on the 14th of February, the day Airbus announced the ending of the production of the A380.

How did I think that the A380 is the plane of the future?

Given the facts that air travel demands is rising for years to come, particularly doubled from today according to IATA (International Air Transport Organization), airlines will need the big jets like the A380. For now, the passenger volume is not enough for airlines to fill the big jet like the A380 but I confidently believe that in the future, filling up the A380 is easier than today.

How about the 777X or the stretched A350?

I've read a lot of news that said the 777X is a good replacement for the A380 and so for the 747. I would say that it might be well replacing the 747 but definitely not the A380. Given the size, the A380 is bigger than the 777X, hence, it can handle some very high capacity routes that even the 777X cannot handle.

The stretched A350 is told to be as big as the 777-9X. With that being said, it will poses problems of the 777-9X too, in term of sizes and capacity. Even the 777-10X wouldn't have that super capacity like the A380.

Twin jets are more efficient than quad jets

Technically, it is correct. But if you think about stretching the A380, making it capable of carrying up to 900-1000 passengers max, it will be well replacing up to two 777Xs. Two 777Xs, four engines and an extra airframe which would take up one more slot at the airport. There are very few airport being built or expanding right now. Propulsion wise, the four engines can always be revamped, which would make it "A380neo".

By the way, the model "A380neo" is Emirates's superbly ideal A380 model. They have been pushing Airbus to make it, but there was no other customers beside Emirates and some interest from Qatar. Even after the rethink strategies from Emirates, the airline would still buy more A380s if there are improvements in the four engines. Sir Tim Clark, the CEO of Emirates, said that he has been pushing Airbus to re-engine the jet, but receive no response. Quoting from an article on Airinsight: "A spoke person replies: Emirates made the difficult decision to give up its A380 order and had to review its fleet mix, as it was clear that the A380 could not be fit for the future without new engines that kept up with technology advances in propulsion, or investments to further develop the aircraft.". Also, they stated in their annual financial report that the airline is still a big supporter of the A380 program despite the airframe manufacturer decision to end the production in 2021.


An Emirates A380, A6-EUP at Kastrup Airport (Photo: Richard Vo, @vhaq_aero)

Point to point strategy

Let's not forget that the demands in hubs are growing as well, not just the "point"! Even with the rise of single aisle long haul jets like the A321XLR, which many believes would shift the demands away from hubs to points, I still strongly believe that the demands in hubs will continue to grow, alongside with the points.

Some airlines are dumping the A380s. Why?

The airlines might have another strategy, or they were concerning the fuel efficiency of the aircraft. In term of strategy, airlines need to fill 80% the aircraft in order to make it an absolute money maker. As I mentioned, it will be easier to fill the aircraft in the future than now. Fuel efficiency wise, A380neo is the answer, but it is too early. Qatar decided to retire them early because of fuel efficiency problem, but if the A380neo was there then they will be well taking them! Qatar Airways's CEO Akbar Al Baker said "the A380 could have been a perfect plane".

Some airlines will be well need A380s too!

Beside Emirates, who would definitely take more A380s if there are new engines, who else?

So far, Hi Fly is the first second hand A380 user and they are extremely happy with the aircraft so far. I do have some speculation regarding which airline might be interested to acquire some A380s!

British: Given their hub is slot constrained (even after the expansion, starting from 2021 and finish in 2026, not all slots would be taken by BA and one slot can be very expensive), which they cannot make a lot of departure, they will need to have the A380 to deliver a lot of passenger but only use up a few slots. However, due to cost, they cannot do so, or else they will!

Vietnam Airlines: Given that the country where the airline is based at, Vietnam, is the fifth fastest growing air travel market, the A380 will suit them well on high density routes, such as SGN-HAN or SGN/HAN-ICN or from SGN/HAN - CDG even!

Garuda Indonesia: Given that the country where the airline is based at, Indonesia, is the fourth largest fastest air travel market, the A380 will suit them well. Garuda can use the jet on some high density route.

Some Chinese and US carriers: Given that both countries are among the largest air travel markets out there, the A380 will be perfect for them. Even if they have a lot of hubs, the passengers volume will reach at a point for the superjumbos operation to justify. Right now, in China, the only A380 operator is China Southern, with 5 strong A380s in the fleet.

A380 British Airways, G-XLED at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Richard Vo, @vhaq_aero)

The A380 is too big for some airport...

Given the role of the jet is to carry a lot of passengers, the oversize problem is quite inevitable. However, the designer can make the aircraft become more compatible with more airport, such as make folding wing and lighter materials, which would save up some space and reduce the weight. Bear in mind, Boeing do NOT own the folding wing technology. It has been around for very long, originated from naval aviation, since WW2, at which carrier based aircrafts have folding wing to save up space on the aircraft carrier.

How about electric planes?

In approximately 20 years time, we will be seeing electric planes flying short haul with low capacity so it will be unlikely to see they went into long haul operations at anytime soon.

The A380 can protect the environment

This might surprise some, given that the plane is four engines. But let me tell you, it can, if it is stretched with the revamped engines. It would enable airlines to fly less frequencies (thus less CO2 emitted) while deliver a huge amount of passengers as several others smaller jets' flights

A twin engine A380 sized aircraft?

I'm not sure about that. However, I believe that the air travel demands are growing at the pace that technology does not have enough time to develop a twin engine A380 sized aircraft. However it would be interesting to see the A380 comes back with only two engines.

So, what variants do I think that the "A380neo" will be?

Given that it would need the stretched airframe, I would say that it will be the A380-900neo, or A380-1000neo, as the aircraft would need news engines and others designs to match the future standards!


Could this be the A380neo? 😍 Image credits: edge on Airlines Empires

Overall

With all what I said above, the A380, with some improvements in term of propulsion, is the aircraft designated for the future of air travel. Its time will come again, perhaps in 10 or 20 years. Airlines which decided to dump the A380s now will see the need for them later!

A380 Vietnam Airlines

(Concept by Robert Vo, @vhmq.spotting on Instagram, @dalordvhmq on Twitter)


This article was last updated 19/6/2019

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