Airbus Offers More Seating Capacity on Superjumbo A380

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The Airbus A380 has long been the highest capacity commercial aircraft in the world. The plane can seat between 525 and more than 600 passengers, or fewer if an airline chooses.

That’s because seating capacity choices are left up to the airlines. According to Airbus, the current average capacity of its A380s is 497. The aircraft maker has announced several options — which Airbus calls Cabin Enablers — to boost capacity beyond that average, including a new forward stairway, this morning.

According to Airbus, relocating the forward stairway can add 20 seats in the business, premium economy and economy classes. Another previously announced change alters the economy cabin seating from 10 per row to 11 on the main deck, adding 23 more seats to A380. Premium economy seats can also be increased, from eight per row to nine, which combined with other changes adds 14 more premium economy seats on the main deck.

If an airline chooses to adopt all the Cabin Enablers Airbus offers, total seating on the average A380 would rise to 575 in four classes and, Airbus says, “generate significantly more revenue for the airlines.”

The four-engine A380 is already the most economical plane available if a carrier can fill it. That could change in 2020 if Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) delivers its new 777-9 on schedule. On a per-passenger basis, the 777-9 pencils out to be up to 20% more fuel efficient than the A380, depending on how many passengers are used for the comparison.

The only airline interested in buying more A380s is Emirates, which has said it will order more if Airbus puts new, more fuel-efficient engines on the plane. Airbus has so far deflected the request, and Emirates may be at least momentarily grateful given the new difficulties its passengers may face flying into the United States. Emirates has configured at least one of its A380s to carry 615 passengers, and the maximum capacity of the plane in an all-economy class configuration is over 900.