While Singapore Airlines has been busy showing off its new A380 super jumbo, the giant’s manufacturer, Airbus, already is speaking of a stretch version of the plane that would even further expand the number of seats on offer.
Even before the A380 tOOK to the skies on a commercial basis, Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy talked of stretching the giant lengthways.
“Imagine if you put in a 100 seat stretch, it looks nicely balanced,” Leahy told reporters in Toulouse.
“It’s really up to the airlines themselves. Some are pushing us to do it sooner. Others say, no, this is the right size.”
Singapore Airlines chief executive Chew Choon Seng said his airline would be interested in a stretch model, but not immediately.
“I think, if you look at it, the physical dimensions of the plane, it looks to be a candidate for stretch but that can come later,” he said.
Even without a stretch version, the A380 alone will add significant capacity to the Australian aviation market, which has enjoyed bumper profits in the last 12 months, partly because of a seat shortage.Singapore has a firm order for 19 of the superjumbos and will fly them to Australia, while Qantas is receiving 20 and will fly them to the United
Kingdom and the United States.
Senior management has said in the past that the added capacity of the A380 fleet will be akin to having an extra flight to London each week.
Then there is the Flying Kangaroo’s order of 65 Boeing Dreamliners, of which 15 will be used to further the long haul operations of Jetstar, Qantas budget carrier offshoot.
Virgin Blue is similarly spreading its wings, with an extra 20 Embraer jets to be deployed on domestic routes and a fleet of six Boeing 777s to operate between Australia and the United States when Virgin launches V Australia to tackle the US route.
Add low cost entrant Tiger to the domestic mix and Air Asia X with its promise of $99 flights between Kuala Lumpur and the Gold Coast and Australian consumers have good reason to expect prices to plummet.
Airbus’s John Leahy added intrigue in Toulouse when he hinted that low cost carriers were looking to take advantage of the enormous fuel savings possible by cramming up to 853 people on to an A380.
The superjumbo uses 2.9 litres of fuel per hundred passenger kilometres compared with the aviation industry average of about five litres per one hundred passenger kilometres.But that figure is based on having about 470 passengers aboard the plane, and it falls even further when the giant is packed to the rafters.
“At 853, it would be unbelievably low in terms of fuel economy,” Leahy said.”I think you will see some low cost carriers doing that.” The plane was perfectly capable of taking such a load, he said. “We’ve certified 853. We did the evacuation test. It was a real airplane set up. “The seats are still going to be wider than a seat on a 747 today,” he promised.