MIAMI— With the Dubai Air Show wrapping up, it seems that the future of the Airbus A380neo is even bleaker. With Emirates as the most likely launch customer an announcement at the show, hosted in the carrier’s home country, would have been an obvious win for all parties involved. Instead, it was barely mentioned by anyone. And what few mentions it did receive suggested opposition more often than endorsement of the idea.
Emirates used the show to introduce its 615-seat, 2-cabin configuration A380. This is the highest density version of the type flying today and the most seats on a commercial aircraft. It is also the type of layout which the A380neo is theoretically targeted after: reducing CASM ever lower by adding more seats to a very large aircraft. Emirates managed to do so on this version without making the plane feel tremendously cramped, though it is obvious just how many passengers will be on board. Still, with 10-abreast seating and a reasonable pitch, plus what appear to be the largest IFE screens ever in economy class, the plane has lots of potential without a stretch.
Engine Alliance was also talking about the A380neo option given its role as the supplier of power plants to the type. Executives believe that incremental gains can be made on the existing engines which will increase the performance sufficiently to obviate the need for a wholly new engine on a longer frame.
Finally, there were comments offered up by Airbus which suggest that the increased seating capacity and attendant CASM gains remain possible without the stretch. In a conversation mostly about the A350 and A330neo Mark Pearman-Wright, Head of Corporate & Investor Marketing Customer Affairs, described the market segmentation and comfort implications for narrower seats; that would be 9-abreast on the A330, 10-abreast on the A350 or 11-abreast on the A380. While acknowledging that these seats are not the airframer’s preference from a passenger comfort perspective, he recognizes that some carriers will see the value proposition there and move in that direction. For an airline looking to incrementally cut CASM the 11-abreast A380 layout will realize those gains. The two-cabin Emirates A380 could see a roughly 8% increase in total seats if the lower deck went 3-5-3 for seating.
No one is slamming the door on the A380neo just quite yet. But more and more the discussions are avoiding it or deriding it. And the conversations at this year’s Dubai Air Show seem to further that play.