Studies into the configuration of the A380's cabin have continued since the A3XX days. Between 1998 and 2000, Airbus worked with leading customers behind closed doors on the configuration of key elements such as the stairs and the upper deck cross-section, as well as cabin ergonomics.

A partially furnished conceptual mock-up was publicly unveiled in Toulouse in 2000, but it was not really a genuine example of how the A380 would be configured in airline service.

In parallel with the Toulouse mock-up, Airbus and its customers have been using research and industrial mock-ups in Hamburg to establish how the real aircraft will look when it starts carrying passengers in 2006, and this has recently been made public in a new partial cabin mock-up in Toulouse.

"The A380 offers 35% more seats than the 747-400, but 50% more floor space," says A380 director, product marketing Richard Carcaillet. "The main deck is 48cm [19in] wider than that of the 747, while the upper deck cross-section is 186cm greater than the Boeing's." He says the A380 offers "12in" more internal width at armrest height on the main deck.

This means A380 economy seats can be around "1.3in" wider than on the 747 thanks to its "wider, optimised cross-section", says Carcaillet, who adds: "A380 comfort compares to the 747, as A320 comfort compares to the 737."

The configuration of two twin-aisle passenger decks means the A380 has eight cross aisles and four end zones which Carcaillet expects operators to use to "define and reinforce" their brand. The baseline three-class configuration is 555 seats, but most operators are expected to opt for less dense configurations.

One possible option is revealed in the new mock-up, which is a spacious premium economy cabin option for the main deck that has seats with a double width of 127cm at 38in pitch, eight abreast.

The planned exit limit capacity for the A380-800 is more than 800 seats and, in a break with recent tradition, Carcaillet says Airbus intends to run an actual evacuation trial during the certification programme for this level of occupancy.

Source: Flight International