Airbus debuts A380plus with winglet extensions, more seats

By David Flynn, June 19 2017
Airbus debuts A380plus with winglet extensions, more seats

Airbus has confirmed plans for what it calls the A380plus – an upgraded superjumbo with fuel-saving winglets as well as seating for an additional 80 passengers spread across business, premium economy and economy class.

The 4.7-meter wingtip extensions designed to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag, together with other wing refinements, will boost fuel efficiency by as much 4%, Airbus claims.

Airlines can opt to order the A380plus with its higher-capacity seating configuration or keep the existing seating configuration to gain an extra 555km of range.

“The A380plus is an efficient way to offer even better economics and improved operational performance,” says Airbus sales chief John Leahy.

The changes come as the European planemaker seeks to revive sales of its flagship aircraft, but falls well short of the so-called A380Neo upgrade that leading customer Emirates has been demanding, but for which Airbus and engine-maker Rolls-Royce say there isn’t a business case.

Instead, the A380plus may still be enough to encourage the Dubai-based carrier to purchase about 20 superjumbos to add to more than 140 it plans to operate.

The enhancements, announced on the eve of the Paris Air Show, come as the Airbus considers dropping production rates for the A380 below one-a-month from 2018 if it fails to secure orders this year.

More seats for the superjumbo

Using what Airbus describes as a series of 'cabin enablers', the average superjumbo seat count increases from 497 to 575 across four classes.

Here's the Airbus rundown of where that space comes from.

Removing the 'grand staircase': relocating the forward stairs to replace the so-called 'grand staircase' (seen below on the Emirates A380) with a more efficient staircase combining the entrance to the upper deck with the adjacent staircase to the lower-deck crew-rest makes room for up to 20 additional passengers in business, premium economy and economy.

A similar redesign of the rear staircase from a spiral configuration to a square one provides space for 14 more economy passengers on the main deck.

Removing the upper-deck sidewall stowage bins: this will be a controversial one, as all business travellers love those deep under-window bins for stowing bags, shoes, PJs and the like. Airbus says "the option to remove the sidewall stowages on the upper-deck increases the wall-to-wall cabin width at foot-rest height – which makes space for up to 10 more business class seats / beds when an angled herring-bone arrangement is used."

Adopting a nine-abreast premium economy cabin on the main deck is good for 11 more premium economy seats compared in an eight-abreast layout, Airbus says (not all airlines even use an eight-across layout, however – Qantas for example currently has an seven-across 2-3-2 design),

Adopting a squeezy 11-abreast 3-5-3 economy layout on the main-deck equates to 23 more economy class passengers.

Combining rest areas for the flight crew (currently behind the cockpit in the superjumbo's 'mezzanine area') with that of the cabin crew in a single crew rest zone on the lower deck frees space for three extra premium economy seats at the front of the main deck.

Also read: Photos of the Airbus A380's secret hangout zone for cabin crew

PREVIOUS | Airbus may swap the prestige of the A380's grand staircase for the commercial lure of fitting more passengers onto the double-decker jet, in an evolution of the superjumbo called the A380 Plus.

It's the same A380 plus more bums on seats, you see.

According to Reuters, the wide staircase connecting the upper and lower decks at the front of the A380 would be slimmed down to less majestic proportions, with some tweaks to the spiral staircase at the rear of the plane.

The reclaimed space would provide room for an additional 40-50 economy seats.

Combined with Airbus' push to have airlines fit first class cabins onto the upper deck, this would take the superjumbo carry over 600 passengers in a standard three-class layout – up from 490 seats in the same mix today.

Airbus' new floorplan for the 558-seat superjumbo
Airbus' new floorplan for the 558-seat superjumbo

The A380 Plus proposal would also see fuel-saving vertical tips would also be added to the A380's sweeping 80m long wings to boost efficiency by reducing drag.

Reuters reports that Airbus officials declined to comment on the A380 Plus, saying only that “Airbus is always studying opportunities to improve our aircraft."

The A380 Plus appears to have taken the place of the A380neo – a more fuel-efficient superjumbo with new engines and superior aerodynamics – as the next step for the superjumbo, with Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier declaring in January "we have studied the possible evolution of the A380neo aircraft and we came to the conclusion that the time was not yet there to launch it."

"So we decided to keep what really makes sense which is to increase the seat count whilst keeping the big advantage of A380, which is the quality as perceived by the passengers – the bars, restrooms and showers and all that and this is what we are doing right now."

The A380 will celebrate its tenth anniversary in October this year, with global launch customer Singapore Airlines expected to mark the event by taking delivery of a new raft of superjumbos fitted with all-new first class suites and business class seats.

Emirates, which remains the largest A380 customer by far with some 93 of the massive jetliners in its fleet, is also working on a second generation of suites inspired by private luxury yachts and railway cabins, following the debut of its new A380 bar.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2015

Total posts 71

2-2-2 in J.. no.

agreed... prefer 1-2-1... direct aisle for each seat....

07 Mar 2014

Total posts 11

more sardines in the can

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

Doubt this would convince QANTAS to reconsider its plans to not get any more A380 but we will see.

Okay, so they managed to reduce CASM primarily through adding more seats.

That's fine, but the problem with the A380 (from an airline economics perspective... its a wonderful jet from a PaxEx perspective) is that its too big. There are very few routes that need an A380's current capacity; adding even more seats doesn't solve the most important problem.

It should also be added that the A380 was designed primarily to allow increased capacity for slot-restricted 'megahub' airports. That said, two of these megahubs - Heathrow and Hong Kong - are getting new runways in the coming years. 

The A380 is a great jet but its relatively niche. Its ahead of its time, and its most prolific user is using it in ways that the jet wasn't initially designed for anyway. 

This new LOPA is an improvement, but not the improvement the jet actually needs. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

I agree there's some distinct limitations with a jet this size but 10 years ago we would've said it was overkill to fly anything bigger than an A330 on a trans-pacific route - when I fly that route with EK, the plane has been pretty much full on the AKL -> AUS sectors every time and that's with four of them flying between AU and NZ every day. There are plenty of high traffic routes in the world that could fill an A380 but the running costs, runway reinforcement, aerobridge requirements etc. provide further limitations. I hope the plane doesn't fade away like the jumbo will; it's my favourite plane to fly on!

Asiana Airlines - Asiana Club

09 Feb 2017

Total posts 41

Regardless of how much they expand, megacities like London, Hong Kong and New York would still be mixing up hub-and-spoke traffic with point-to-point traffic on routes between them. At least for cities like Sydney and Melbourne the A380 would still make more economic sense on bigger markets of Singapore, Hong Kong or maybe even Shanghai. For example I wouldn't see SQ replacing its 2xA380, 2x77W route to Sydney with 6x77W or 6x359 any time compared to 4xA380 - especially if they want product consistency.

08 Feb 2017

Total posts 7

The other thing to note is that airlines rarely follow the manufacturer's standard configuration, so the real CASM saving that can be spread across the seats is probably even less.


02 May 2016

Total posts 61

Yep, the A350 and 787 are challenging the old hub airport operating model, you can bypass many of the inconvenient congested hubs or fly with greater frequency choices on smaller more efficient ~300 seat aircraft, forcing tough economics on the A380 - unless it's full it don't add up...pity as it's a great aircraft from a pax perspective. Flew QF7 to DFW last week, 341 pax, must be close to break even at that pax level??

Its a monopoly route and Qantas get lots of premium traffic on it, so I think its profitable. They wouldn't have upgauged it to an A380 (from the 747ER which used to operate it) if it weren't profitable for them. DFW is AA's biggest hub so they get lots of feed. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 38

Agree with what everyone is saying above. It's an improvement but not necessarily the improvement that non-owners of the A380 are looking for to justify it's purchase. If anything, I feel this is trying to convince EK that they can get more revenue by not going 11 across - but then again, it says in the graphic itself that is capable so maybe I'm wrong.

Is it also just me that, considering they're trying to push this as their "new LOPA" they should be making J 1-2-1 and perhaps adding Premium Economy into the mix? The LOPA looks like it could have been drawn up a decade ago itself. And where's the bar if the CEO is touting that those are the reasons people love to fly the A380? What they're saying and what they're showing I feel goes against each other.

All this said, I do hope there remains a place for this aircraft, as everyone says, it's one of my favs to fly on. Even in Y it's honestly not bad, which can't be said for half the longhaul planes out there now.


03 May 2013

Total posts 668

"..... the quality as perceived by the passengers

21 Aug 2015

Total posts 86

Not for me. Too big, too crowded, too many issues..............some old road warriors value a little service quality. 

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

03 Sep 2014

Total posts 8

100% agree with  zoomzoom , too big , too crowded. Definitely won't be for me. 


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1425

crwilkins the reason for the light load on DFW is range issues particularly against the wind. They have a lighter economy load and fill it up with premium. Could not get an upgrade last week but they sold three across in economy instead. If they could retrofit those wingtip extension QF would lap it up to get the extra 500kms range on the DFW route. Melb-LHR also has light loads hence the move to the 787.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 108

Hopefully airlines will be able to replace the wing tip fences with these.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 108

If so, this would be great for Qantas as they can add them on while reconfiguring the A380s.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Certainly seems that at least some of these changes will be retro fittable, although presumably Airbus wants to hold back at least some for new builds.

14 Dec 2015

Total posts 17

Don't know why Airbus doesn't progress with a freighter version. Boeing is doing OK with the B747-8F, in fact without it the line could dry up. 

Also the wing was designed for future stretches, have a look at pictures of the initial proposed stretch, then it starts to look in proportion. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 97

3-5-3 in economy ... The air-pocalypse has happened ... The industry can only deny things for so long.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 97

I didn't say that! This wasn't my post but why my username was shown beside it??? Was it a glitch of the website?

Also, that is exactly what I want to say.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 197

It comes down what an airline wants to provide in routes like 'wheel n spoke' or direct 'point 2 point' .

To me, with the wing tips enhancements and the fine tuning of the engines, the 558 passenger configuration would suit those airlines who are currently operating the A380 for both 'wheel n spoke' and 'point 2 to point' services for long haul and ultra long haul routes like DXB/AKL/DXB.

If a current A380 operator still wants to operate a 475 passenger version with more up market first and business class product with the latest operating enhancements like EY, then thats airline decision.

I don't see QF buying new A380's. They might go for a  refurbished 558 seat version with operating enhancements.

With the cheaper B787/A350 family of aircraft available and the proposed B778/B779, I do not see Airbus seeing a rush of new A380 orders by airlines due to their high purchase, maintenance and infrastructure costs. What might happened, that existing A380 operators may refurbished their existing fleets to the new operating enhancements. The only carrier could order extra A380's would be EK.

Airbus will most likely refurbished ex-leased A380's with new cabin, wing tip and engines are a cheaper price to any carriers who is looking to operate A380's .

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jun 2015

Total posts 57

We have the iPhone 7 Plus, Galaxy S8 Plus and now soon to join also Airbus A380plus!

It's getting tougher and tougher to carve out new markets for A380 in an age of two-engine future planes such as 777X and A350-900, 1000; so I hope they get a few orders. 

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Airbus debuts A380plus with winglet extensions, more seats