Manufacturer discards 555-passenger definition as it is based on 'outdated' business-class comfort standards

Airbus has reinvented the ultra-large A380 as a 525-seater airliner through a 30-passenger reduction in the ultra-large airliner's typical three-class capacity.

The move is part of a major redefinition, which has also been applied to the rival Boeing 747-400 and 747-8 Intercontinental, designed to reflect the latest premium cabin comfort levels.

The 747-8I becomes a 405-seater under Airbus's new definitions, compared with Boeing's standard three-class accommodation of 467 passengers, while the 747-400's seat count drops from 417 to 370.

Airbus has used 555 seats as the baseline three-class configuration for the A380 since the days of the A3XX in 1990s. It comprised 22 first-class seats (at 68in/172cm pitch), 96 business-class seats (at 48in pitch) and 437 economy seats (at 32in pitch).

"We were a bit outdated with our 555-seat layout, which had the early 1990s standard of business-class seat pitch," says A380 director of product marketing Richard Carcaillet. "Today the business-class standard is 60in pitch."

Airbus is saying good-bye to the 555-seat A380, says Carcaillet, and all references are now based around a 525-seat three-class layout incorporating 10 first-class seats, 76 business and 439 economy.

"This capacity corresponds much more to the average of current customers, which is 503 seats," says Carcaillet, calling Boeing's 467-seat count for the 747-8I "dream numbers". He says that a realistic layout for the 747-8I is "around 400 seats and therefore the aircraft brings no growth or comfort standard improvement".

Meanwhile, Airbus says that development of the A380 freighter could be revived for a service entry around 2014, once it has fully resolved the programme delays that have afflicted the passenger version. The manufacturer's decision in March to "interrupt" the development of the A380 freighter to focus its engineering resources on its passenger programme resulted in the loss of its remaining customer United Parcel Service.

Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy says that "the plan is to bring it back around the 2014 timeframe", but he adds that development will ultimately be dictated by customer demand.

Related articles:

Everything about the A380
Flight's commercial aircraft directory

Source: Flight International