Airbus believes that the consolidation under way among the US major airlines will reinforce the case for the A380 in the region. The airframer forecasts that the merged United Airlines/Continental Airlines entity could need a fleet of up to 20 of the ultra-large airliners for its dense long-haul routes.

Flightglobal's ACAS database records just 45 passenger 747s in service with North American airlines, and unsurprisingly Airbus does not see the region as being a major A380 market. It predicts just 5% of the 1,318 very large airliners forecast for delivery over the next 20 years will go to airlines in the region, or a total of 64 aircraft. This compares with more than 700 aircraft expected to be needed by Asia-Pacific airlines, or 55% of the entire market.

United Airlines 747
 © Keith Blinkow/
Will United replace their 747s with A380s?
Two US carriers have large 747-400 fleets - Delta Air Lines and United, the former having inherited a fleet of 15 through its takeover of Northwest Airlines. The latter, which operates 25 747-400s, is in the midst of a planned merger with fellow US major Continental.

Airbus's head of A380 marketing Richard Carcaillet says that the market for the A380 in the USA is "at the big gateways". Airbus lists three US cities in its forecast for the top 20 very large aircraft hubs over the next 20 years - Los Angeles, New York Kennedy and San Francisco, which it ranks as 14th, 19th and 20th, respectively.

Carcaillet says that "the case is there [to sell A380s to a US carrier], especially now with United and Continental merging, they could use anywhere between 10 and 20 A380s together - especially on transpacific services".

Airbus super jumbo delivery forecast

Carcaillet adds that Delta could also use the A380 across the Pacific primarily, but also on New York-London services: "The airlines always say, 'no, no, we want frequency', but what will happen in 10 years time? If, for example, you have seven frequencies a day now, will you have 14 then? Where will you get the slots from? So you'll have to increase your aircraft size unless you take your foot off the accelerator and let others take market share."

Source: Flight International