Heathrow – A380 CentralBy IAG | March 9th, 2012 | Posted in Aviation News | No Comments
Malaysia Airlines today revealed the design and specifications of its first new flagship, the A380, that is on track for entry into service 1 July 2012. Their A380 has a capacity of 494 seats in a three-class configuration comprising 8 First Class seats and 350 Economy Class seats on the main deck, together with 66 Business Class seats and 70 economy Class seats on the upper deck. This is a much more comfortable configuration than originally envisaged. Clearly MAS is going after the region's premier carriers.
But here's the more interesting story. The A380 is going to fly to London. So will the airline's next A380 to be delivered later this year. Heathrow is fast becoming A380 Central. Given its slot constraints which have no apparent possibility any time of easing, airlines are doing the most rational thing – optimizing slots. This follows the logic put forward by Airbus' John Leahy – traffic doubles every 15 years and airport slots are not keeping pace. Ergo, you need bigger airplanes. The situation at Heathrow is coming to a head faster than at other major airports. But expect this to start happening at a growing number of airports. The A380 is coming into its own as airlines realize it has a very useful purpose. Expect also to see Airbus start refining the airplanes fuel burn and range. The 777-300ER has a lower fuel consumption per seat but lacks the heft of the A380. Boeing will respond with the 777-9x and Airbus will tweak the A380, making it lighter and better. VLAs are here to stay.
Note that this does not necessarily obviate the logic at Boeing for the 787. Airlines flying the 787 can be very clever by serving cities beyond or behind hubs. The 787 retains its very powerful promise to be a "hub buster". Airlines could easily require both a hub buster and a hub server. You could see, for example, United using A380s to serve Tokyo or Shanghai from Chicago. At the same time it could use 787s to serve many cities in the EU from Washington DC that are not hubs – like Lyon, Dusseldorf, Vienna, Milan and so on. We use United here as an example, but there are numerous airlines in the same situation.