Updating the A380: the prospect of a neo version and what’s involved

Recent headlines and this column report that Airbus is considering re-engining the popular A330 with GE Aviation GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-TEN power plants. A New Engine Option and other changes would improve the A330’s economy by an estimated 10% percent after offsets for increased drag and weight.

But the A330 isn’t the only Airbus airplane being considered for new engines made popular by the A320neo family. Tim Clark, president and chief operating officer of Emirates Airlines, urged Airbus to improve efficiency of the giant A380 with engine technology found in newer generation aircraft.

How feasible is an A380neo? What are the technological issues? Would there be enough of an economic gain? And is there a market for an A380neo?

The A380 of today

The A380 has been hailed as a highly efficient airliner since it went into service 2008, assuming the giant plane can be filled. But only six years later, the first voices have been raised that this will not continue to be the case should the continuous improvements that have been flowing into the airframe not pick up speed.

The launch of the Boeing 777X also brought focus on the state of the A380 come the latter part of this decade when the 777-9X enters flight testing in advance of its planned 2020 entry-into-service. Tim Clark expressed  that “it is time that the A380 gets an injection of the new technology which is now becoming available for the A320/737 in the form of GTF/LEAP and GE9X for the 777X. “

Before we look into what can be done short-to–mid-term to inject improved efficiency, let’s establish the baseline as it exists today. The A380 is considered by some the most efficient way of flying passengers between two long haul points if there is enough of demand. The competition today is the Boeing 777-300ER and 747-8i.  (Qantas Airways is dropping some A380 flights that have 50% load factors, demonstrating the aircraft is inefficient if the demand is insufficient.)

Let’s assume we want to transport passengers between San Francisco and Hong Kong, one of the longer flights which are made non-stop in both directions. Going West, it takes a Cathay 777-300ER 15 hours and going East, 12 hours, the difference being due to prevailing headwinds going West. For our check, we will use the more demanding of these legs, which then works out as the equivalent of flying 7,200nm. To compare the three different aircraft in a fair way, we need to load them to the same payload, in our case passengers with luggage. We will not consider cargo in this initial analysis. The leg chosen is not one which allows much weight for cargo, but cargo certainly belongs to a complete analysis of an airplane and we will point out where it will affect any conclusions.  

When comparing the standard three-class seating numbers between the OEMs, it is clear these are not made to the same standards of comfort. Airbus has admitted that the A380 is too lightly loaded at 525 passengers. The 777-300ER at nine abreast and 365 seats is equipped with a comfortable 18’’ economy class at 32’’ pitch but the business class is modeled with a non-standard 48’’ pitch. The 747-8i at 467 seats is not laid out to any comfort standards comparable to the other two. To ensure an apples-to-apples comparison we have equipped all aircraft with the same three-class cabin with a standard seating consisting of first class at 81’’ pitch, business class at 60’’ pitch and economy class with 32’’ pitch. Seat widths are 37’’, 22’’ and 18’ respectively and the ratios of the different premium seatings vs. economy are kept the same. Here the aircraft are listed with the in-service year and with their respective payload capabilities:

Click on all illustrations to enlarge.

A380 v 777 v 747-8 specs

Table 1

Today’s costs

Fuel constitutes about 50% of long-haul costs; therefore we will focus on this main cost parameter for this comparison between the aircraft. In the table below we have now added the trip fuel burn over our chosen 15 hour flight. Since we compare aircraft of vastly different sizes, our normal cost per aircraft mile comparison makes little sense. We have kept the fuel cost per available seat mile and complemented with the format that Lufthansa uses: litre consumed per passenger and 100km flown. (These figures represent nominal aircraft with our standardized cabin. The figures therefore cannot be compared with the Lufthansa published litre fuel/100km, which is for aircraft with their specific seating):

A380 v 777 v 747-8 economics

Table 2

As can be seen, all aircraft are in the same fuel cost range with the A380 having 5% worse fuel costs per seat than the 777-300ER but 3% better than the 747-8i. The differences in direct operating costs are augmented by the 300ER’s lower engine maintenance costs and the revenue side has a superior cargo capability.  Why, then, does Emirates tout the A380 as its premier aircraft? Because for an airline, an aircraft is judged in part by the difference between Revenue per Available Seat Mile (RASM) and Cost per Available Seat Mile (CASM). Emirates has passenger load factors which are considerably higher for the A380 than other aircraft. This more than compensates for any difference in fuel burn, cargo capacity (cargo pays less well than passengers) and engine maintenance cost. This is valid as long as the fuel consumed per seat mile does not differ more than today.

If we look forward to the turn of the decade and introduce the 777-9X into the table, it is clear why Tim Clark is now saying the A380 will have to be updated come 2020. The new 777-9X will consume 20% less fuel per seat then the -300ER, according to Boeing, and then the cost equation will change.

A380 v 777 v 747-8 v 777x economics

Table 3

The 777-9X has a 13% better fuel consumption per seat then today’s A380. Add to that its 27 empty LD3 positions once the baggage LD3s have been loaded and the business case for a A380 is getting challenged.  It shall be noted that we now have the economy section for the 777X at 10 abreast, which is below our 18’’ seat-width rule. Should we have kept this rule, the per seat fuel difference would have been -8%. Given the small comfort improvements that -9X brings for 10 abreast economy—an increase of about one-half inch per seat, Boeing calculates—and the likelihood that most airlines will fly it at 10 abreast, we therefore show the upcoming threat to the A380 as a 10 abreast variant (already nearly three quarters of the airlines today go 10 abreast for the -300ER).

Updating the A380

As can be seen, the enhanced A380 should be available in a new version before or around 2020. There are principally three ways Airbus can prepare the A380 for the next decade:

  1. Rely on incremental improvements to engines and aerodynamics and make the cabin denser;
  2. Update to engines available before 2020, improve aerodynamics and make the cabin denser; or
  3. Update to engines available after 2020, improve aerodynamics and have more freedom with cabin density.

Of these improvements, we will discuss the aerodynamic improvements and denser cabins first since these are common factors for all three alternatives.

The A380 is a construction of a somewhat different shape compared to a classical “wings with tube” airliner. This is a result of wanting to transport up to 800 people in a vehicle which is constrained to a maximum dimension of 80 meters by 80 meters for airport operations, the famous 80 meter box. This forced Airbus to build the A380 with a two stories fuselage and with a wing with an unusually low aspect ratio. At 7.8, it is well below the present state of the art, which is more like 9.0 (777-300ER) or 9.5 (787, A350). The drag due to weight (induced drag) is therefore higher than normal. This is compensated by good values for the normally dominant drag component, the drag due to size (wetted area and form drag). In fact, the figures for drag show the reverse trend compared to normal airliners with drag due to weight dominating with 50% at average cruise weight and the drag due to size down at 40%. Thus the A380 compensates a restricted wing with good packaging of the passenger compartment. Its short two-story passenger compartment and elaborate main landing gear restricts its cargo capability however, something is shares with the 747-8i.

Aerodynamic improvement to reduce induced drag is therefore a primary goal for any A380 update. It will take the form of wingtip treatments to increase the effective span. As the wing is already at maximum possible span and was not designed for folding wing-tips, the remaining option is large winglets that spread in the vertical domain. These can take the form of single blade (Sharklets) or multi-blade (Scimitar or perhaps “Sharkfins” in Airbus parlance) devices that alleviate induced drag as a function of their physical size. We have assumed winglets of 4m size in our analysis, which enhance the efficiency by 3.5% over the present wing fences on long-haul flights.

To get more revenue generating passengers on board, Airbus is studying 11 abreast seating on certain parts of the A380 main deck. This will increase the coach capacity by about 30-40 seats without compromising the 18’’ seat width standard, according to the company. We will include such a denser cabin when we compare future A380 variants to today’s aircraft.

New engines

We will now examine the perhaps most important component of an efficiency improvement program for the A380, the engines (see table below for a list of all candidates):

A380neo Engine Specs

Table 4

First the incremental improvement of the existing Trent T900 and EA7200. The T900 has historically trailed the EA7200 by about 1% in specific fuel consumption. The present T900EP is said to close that gap and Rolls Royce have another improvement package in the works which will add another 0.8%, T900EP2. The size of these improvements are typical, about 1% every three years; thus we would expect to see a total of 2% improvement from now to 2020.

A second alternative is to take an existing engine from a later generation. Suitable engines in thrust and weight would be 787 engines, the GE GEnx-1 and Rolls Royce T1000. These deliver an improvement of 4%-5% over the present A380 engines in the variants that are being developed for the 787-10. With these engines being certified in 2015, theoretically an A380neo can see an EIS in 2016, sooner than a new engine could be engineered onto the A380. A more likely A380neo target EIS would be 2018, the wish date of Emirates for an upgrade (the airline starts to take delivery of the new batch of 50 then). The 787 engines are some 250kg lighter then the lightest A380 engine (T1000) and as they have less fan diameter their nacelles will be slightly smaller and lighter.

A third alternative would be a totally new development based on e.g. RR RB3039 or a PW GTF. Such engines offer an additional 6%-7% efficiency improvement over a 787 engine derivative. Their drawback would be higher weight and drag due to their larger fans and their 60:1 pressure ratios. Another drawback is that they will not be available until after 2021. Additionally there is the question whether there is a business case for an entirely new engine serving only the A380, a niche aircraft for which the 20 year market demand before or after a neo is a matter of diverse opinions.

The different engine alternatives are shown in the table where we have also included the A330 engines as the thrust requirement for an A330neo is similar to the A380 and there is a certain probability that development of an engine variant and nacelle would be shared between the two programs (Table 4).

There is a lack of an entry from PW in the table, mainly because it has not publicly presented the outline of an alternative. For a 2021 time frame, PW could well be in the running. The question would then be with what programs could they share the development costs as a re-engine of the A380 would potentially only represent a small number of engines for PW. It can also be seen in the table that GEnx-1 somewhat trails the T1000-TEN in efficiency, mainly because Rolls Royce have decided to do three updates of the T1000 and GE have only announced to be doing two. It would be no big problem for GE to inject some LEAP technology into the GEnx-1 for an A380/330 neo project and close that gap.

Much has been written about the work involved in converting 787 engines to bleed variants. In fact these are bleed engines. These engines put out compressor bleed air to deice the nacelle inlet and they use compressor bleed ports to correct compressor handling problems at low RPM. In essence bleed variants are rescheduled variants of the existing engines, not a big redesign as many speculate.

Which way to go

If we put the three alternatives on the A380 and list them side by side with the present and future Boeing competitor we will get the following table:

A380neo v A380ceo v Boeing

Table 5

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn:

A380-PIP

Airbus can almost achieve Emirates wish for a 10% improvement in efficiency per seat until 2018 with a combination of 11 abreast economy cabin on the main floor, improved aerodynamics and incrementally improved engines. This variant would beat the 777-300ER in per seat efficiency as long as a 300ER runs at nine abreast. If we change this to 10 abreast, the 300ER passes the A380-PIP with 3%. It shall once again be pointed out that we only look at passenger capability here. Under-floor cargo is the 777’s strong point and it will improve the 777s earnings in a real situation. The A380-PIP would not match a 777-9X in per seat efficiency but it would be within 4%, both using denser cabins than today. Once again higher cargo capability will improve a 777X business case, especially if seasonal fluctuations reduce the A380 load factors over, for example, winter months.

A380neo16

With an additional upgrade to 787 engines we gain another 5% in trip fuel burn and therefore also seat fuel burn as all improved variants share the denser cabin. This variant is fractionally more efficient than a 777-9X and would be attractive for routes where one can fill an A380 also after 2020. There is no projected aircraft that can reach the per seat economics of a well loaded A380neo16, and this is what Emirates route planners have found.

A380neo21

If the engine upgrade of the A380 would wait for Rolls Royce or PW engines of the 777X generation (GE might be restricted by its 777X engagement, see A350 engine sharing problematic below), it would gain another 5% in fuel economy over the A380neo16 variant. While this is attractive it has more complicated project and business model implications. The A380 is not a high volume program and it is not projected to be for the 20 years remaining after a neo. It would thus at best create a market for an engine program of some 2,000 engines, or roughly 400-500 airplanes, plus spares. Should this be divided between two manufacturers like today, we talk about 1,000+ engines per engine program. Given the uncertainty of A380 sales numbers this is not a viable business case for a new engine development; costs would have to be shared with some other platform.

Finally:

Sharing with an A330neo is ideal as the A330 and A380 have the same thrust requirements. It is doubtful an A330neo can wait until 2021, however, due to market pressure—EIS is being discussed for 2018. This leaves the A350 as a partner program for an A380neo21. Here, the thrust and therefore engine size requirements do not fit well. A new engine for A350 should ideally cover 80-105klbf as an A350-1100 is a likely development. Detuning an engine designed for 100klbf by 25% results in a substantial loss of efficiency, both in terms of specific fuel consumption and size/weight. The A350 is also constrained as to which models GE and PW can be allowed to bid for; only Rolls Royce would have access to all variants due to their A350-1000 exclusivity. In summary an A380neo21 is less straight forward then an A380neo16 with higher investments and risks for the engine manufacturers.

Finally, we note that none of these analyses consider the prospect of a stretched A380, the -900. Airbus does not seem in a hurry to define such a development. We therefore focused on updates to the existing -800 model.

The best Return on Investment for the engine makers is a common engine on the A330neo and the A380neo, and the timeline desired by Airbus for the A330neo all but dictates a choice of the GEnx or Trent 1000 TEN, with the resulting application to the A380neo.

Our data, and analyses by customers who have evaluated the 777-9 vs the A380 (and 747-8i), indicate a 10-abreast 777-9X has better seat mile costs then the much larger, current A380 and the 747-8i. Thus, if Airbus is going to maintain an economic advantage with its four engined airplane vs the twin-engine 777-9, an A380neo is a must.

By Leeham Co EU

83 comments on “Updating the A380: the prospect of a neo version and what’s involved

        • The 558 seat A388 loses quite a few high revenue seats compared to the previous 555 seat version, 12 fewer F (10 vs 22) and 12 fewer J (84 vs 96).

          Will the backpackers’ ticket prices make up for the lost revenue?

        • Demand.

          With the increasing available income/spending money distance in most societies
          I would expect demand to bifurcate around first class.
          Demand for non airline exclusive transport will increase ( upgauge )
          Demand for the current middle field of comfort will also increase ( downgauge )
          but current first class will loose out to the adjacent levels.

  1. Not sure why you have mentioned excess cargo capacity at maximum passenger ranges, there would not be any payload available on any of the types.

      • The difference is due to a 12 tonnes higher OEW of the 777-9X (Boeing has labeled their CFRP wing as “larger and heavier”). It means drag due to weight (induced drag) goes down due to the 71m wing but not much, it is only 2% lower on the 777-9X then the 300ER on this mission at average cruise weight.The drag due to size is considerably higher due to larger wing and longer fuselage.

        • I agree that the -9X will have a higher design ZFW than the -300ER and will have higher parasite drag due to the larger wing and the body stretch. At the same time, the -9X has a better payload-range curve than the -300ER even though both have the same 351.5t MTOW. How would this be possible if the -9X had higher mission fuel burn when both airlines are carrying their design passengers?

      • Cargo does add revenue potential, however it is a not a 1:1 relationship. Emirates passenger yield for one tonne of passengers is about 4 times higher than 1 tonne of freight. Cargo makes up 15% of their revenue, that includes the dedicated freighters.

        When a carrier like Emirates has a front end load factor of 83%, and a break even load factor of 59%.

        The profit is in passengers, and for Emirates, passengers spend money in DXB when they stop over.

  2. Thanks a lot Scott and ?

    Take off thrust is one point, but comparing twin vs quad implies I guess compare top of the climb thrust and cruise thrusts
    I was playing with CFM number on A321 vs A340-300 and

    http://avia.superforum.fr/t1083-famille-cfm56#45538

    http://www.cfmaeroengines.com/engines/cfm56-5b
    http://www.cfmaeroengines.com/engines/cfm56-5c

    CFM56-5B3 33000 lbs TO thrust on A321
    vs
    CFM56-5C4 34000 lbs TO thrust on A340-300

    TO Thrus nearly identical but
    Climb en cruise thrust are somewhat different
    climb / cruise
    5B3 : 6,420 / 5,840
    5C4 : 7,370 / 6,910

    ie +15 % climb and +18% cruise from the same Takeoof thrust

    So is an apple to apple comparison between a 70000-81000 T900 or GP7270 vs and “80 000 lbs-93 000 lbs” class “twin” engine ? ie right where an A350-800/-900 engine is

    Have a nice day

  3. thanks for the interesting analysis scott. one caveat to add would be the underlying assumption on oil prices. the major reports i’ve seen recently forecast a steady(ish) decline in oil prices for the rest of the 2010s reaching 15-25% by 2020, as iraq, iran and the u.s.a. increase supply, change the balance of power with opec, and so change the supply dynamics. of course oil prices can swing rapidly due to geopolitics. but this sort of decline would offer airbus more breathing space.

  4. Scott, that’s certainly a thorough analysis. :-)

    As for Rolls Royce, they are apparently also studying a scaled-down Trent-XWB engine, which would be a couple of pecentage points more advanced than the Trent-1000 TEN engine.

    A “Trent-330NEO/A380NEO” could feature the existing 112 inch diameter fan from the Trent-1000 together with a core scaled down from the Trent-XWB-97 engine; or alternatively, an option could be to use the existing 116 inch fan and nacelle from the Trent-900 together with a scaled down TXWB-97 core allowing for a higher bypass ratio.

    >blockquote>Rolls says “it continues to study all options and is constantly working with Airbus” on prospective engine solutions. However program sources indicate a variety of options are under evaluation ranging from scaled ‘light’ derivatives of the Trent XWB, to an adapted variant of the Trent 1000TEN in early development for the Boeing 787-10. The manufacturer is also believed to be reviewing designs based on the RB.3025, an all-new engine configuration which lost out to the GE9X in the contest to power the newly-launched 777X.

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_11_19_2013_p0-638323.xml

  5. Great analysis, Scott.

    But, Airbus shelved the A-388F and A-389 programs so they could “stabilize” the A-388 program. Since there has been no talk from Airbus about an A-389 or A-388F, can I assume they are not yet where they want to be with the A-388? In other words, the A-388 has yet to pay for itself despite having about 300 airplanes ordered and about 125 delivered.

    So, can Airbus actually afford to go with an A-380NEO-2016 program? As you said, EK ordered another 50 A-388s for delivery from 2018. They would like these 50 airplanes to have the 2016 PIP/NEO package.

    EK flies some of its A-380s on the DXB-LHR missions, a distance of just 3425nm (they also fly their B-777-200/-300 non-ERs on this mission). This medium ranged mission can only be profitable with a load factor of about 90% for the A-380. They are not alone on flying the A-380 on shorter ranged missions. BA, AF, and LH also fly theirs on TATL missions to/from the EU and the US (JFK, IAD, MIA, IAH, LAX, SFO, etc.). How can any A-380 be constantly profitable on any mission less than 7200nm?

    Lets face it, airlines buy airplanes based on the types ability to generate profits. That is what they are in business for. Long gone are the days when airlines bought airplane types because the next guy has them in his fleet, such as the B-741 and B-742.

    • I agree with you and I guess I’m having a hard time understanding why Airbus wants to do this rehash thing on another program. When I look at the data on the 747-8i I see what it means to do an excellent job but still fall short. The 777-9X and the A350-1000 are going to make the 350-390 seat world so much more cost effective that demand for a A380NEO will be very nitche. I get loooking in to it, but the payout will be so much smaller than optimizing the dual engine solutions. EK might value it because they have so many of them, but in the real world the A380 has not made a broad enough case to spend much and producing 747-8i results. Nice but not good enough to move the needle.

    • EK has a front end load factor of 83% (higher on the A380), average passenger load factor of 80%, average total load factor of around 67.5% (passenger and freight), and a break even total load factor of 66.9%.

      Even operating at less than 67% overall load factor, with a heavy front end load factor, the A380 is still very profitable. Yield on freight dropped 5-10% last year.

      At EK the yield on freight is four times lower than passengers by weight, it takes a lot of weight to match the additional 135 passengers the A380 carries.

      • …it takes a lot of weight to match the additional 135 passengers the A380 carries.

        Not to mention the bar/lounge area towards the rear of the plane’s upper deck, or the two in-flight shower rooms for first class passengers at the front of the upper deck, or the far more comfortable seating down below for economy class passengers. :-)

  6. I’ve seen numbers that in comparable comfort standard the 777-300er burns 12% more fuel per pax than the A380. I think if the much smaller 777-300er burned less every A380 order would have been canceled already.

    • This is exactly what I was thinking as well. No way 77W beats the 380 on full load CASMs. Also 748 is only 3% worse than 380?? Thats also something I have heard to be much larger.

      Why would airlines convert from 748s to 380 only for 3% fuel burn gain.

  7. Great analysis Leeham.

    However I think that you’re a little off on the 777-9X trip fuel. You show that the -9X burns 6.1t (or 5.3%) more than the -300ER.

    With 10% better engines and 8% or so better L/D offsetting its higher ZFW, the -9X mission fuel burn should be at least on par with the -300ER. This would bring its fuel burn per seat to at least 13% better than the -300ER. Note that Boeing, albeit with different but similar (365 vs 405) seat counts to yours says the -9X would have a 20% fuel burn per seat advantage.

    Using a trip fuel of 114.4t, the -9X fuel burn per seat would be 82.7% of the base A380. This compares rather well to the 81.0% advantage shown for the proposed A380neo2021.

    Regards, OAG

  8. There might be a slight error with the 777-9x fuel figures. The Ge9x is planned and expected to burn 10% less fuel than the current GE90.

    This is the first and only comparison I have seen which put 777-9x fuel burn as a higher figure than that of a 777-300er.

    Could you please cross check your 777-9x figures again, ferpe (anet) has done some excellent aircraft modelling with performance figures which track close to real world values.

    Regards.

  9. Wide scoped posting. Thank you.
    a nit: A380 load factor reporting by Aspire seems to be faulty.
    Whatever Mr. Tsang intentions … he either got the metric wrong ( we find a 50% factor in the overall payload utilisation ) or limited himself to a keyhole view of the lowest available values.
    Qantas has a few flights that have very low loadfactor ( the reported 50% ).
    But then only in one direction. On average A380 load factors are above average for Qantas.
    A380 improvements:
    What has not been mentioned is improvements to the airframe.
    With a bit stick into the googleheap one can find information about a widely scoped weight reduction programme that has not gone beyond planning stages.
    ( shelved for the time being until industrialisation of the A380 has reached “sane” levels?)
    Engines: IMHO the 787 engines both excude a whiff of Mk1. Rushed designs that took rather long to mature and achieve spec performance ( 4+ years?).
    today they should have been 1..2 % beyond spec already.
    ..
    What about TXWB + Composite Fan ( which was mentioned in the rumor mill )

    • Aspire article was based on a statistical anomaly that has relatively few people flying in just one direction in one month of the year.

      • Our comment was based on the fact that if load factors drop below a certain point (and in this case, 50%), the A380 is not profitable. Our comments had nothing to do with cancelling orders or Tsang’s conclusions. Don’t make that leap or connection.

        A 50% load factor on a 500 pax airplane is 250 passengers, which would be profitable on a 787, for example, and a 70% load factor on the 360-seat 777.

        • If you argue your case with those 50% … ;-)
          the noteworthy detail is that low load factors happened on one select leg only.
          A route pair showing utilisation of 100% for A to B traffic and 50% for the B to A leg is unfixable by using a smaller aircraft. Actually leaving behind 50% of potential customers for the one leg will probably cost you customers for the other leg.
          ( taking the load factor jo-jo to its extremes in this example.)
          i.e. the presented view does not lead to a solution for this specific problem.
          Qantas load factors are a red herring ( and a rather smelly one at that.).

        • “A 50% load factor on a 500 pax airplane is 250 passengers, which would be profitable on a 787, for example, and a 70% load factor on the 360-seat 777.”

          We have seen those comparison as long as the A380 exists. Load factors proved good on the A380. Passengers prefer an A380 seat according to operators of both A380 and other aircraft types.

          We could also state that if there is a 100% load factor on the A380, 140 passengers would have to be put in hotels, sleep in airport terminals (include picture) or be rebooked at expensive competitor flights. Or an additional flight / slots / crew including all costs of a 787 would be required every flight.. True but non-sense also. If an A380 is too large you use a smaller aircraft. If a 777 is too small an A380.

        • Everybody, Come on! If you can fill an A380, you can’t beat it’s economics and revenue potential. If you can’t, you can beat its economics. I don’t anyone (other than Boeing) will dispute this.

        • Agreed!XDD Someone told me that of course A380 is a good aircraft——if you want the A380 to profit, you have to fulfill two conditions: enough long range and filling her to the full, however these two conditions are difficult to satisfy for mant airlines. About the analysis, I’m interested in you opinion anout the cost of developing a neo? (BTW, after my little project I considered that the 90-100 seats market for two turboprops is a bit tightening?

        • The MAX and NEO have an estimated cost of $2bn-$2.5bn and $1bn-$1.5bn respectively to Boeing and Airbus, with the engine portion an unknown figure (to us).

  10. “To ensure an apples-to-apples comparison we have equipped all aircraft with the same three-class cabin with a standard seating consisting of first class at 81’’ pitch, business class at 60’’ pitch and economy class with 32’’ pitch”

    Hallelujah! Great job Scott.

    One of the more difficult variables to catch and proving the selling point for A380 and basicly every aircraft is: seat capacity.

    It is not another variable, its Capacity (-range) is the key selection starting point.
    If you need 400 seats for long daily flights you are not selecting a 320 seat aircraft that is more efficient per seat. Airline network planning doesn’t work that way & network requirements drive fleet requirements.

    You look for the best aircraft fitting capacity requirements. If you want 550 seats, 350 is not ok if it burns less per passenger. Fuel is only a part of the costs. revenues are important too ;)

    • “Everybody, Come on! If you can fill an A380, you can’t beat it’s economics and revenue potential. If you can’t, you can beat its economics. I don’t anyone (other than Boeing) will dispute this.”

      At EK, a 777-300ER with full passenger payload and 23,000 kg of cargo produces the same yield as an A380 with 72% load factor and 8000 kg of cargo. The 23,000 kg of cargo is equivalent to the yield of only 58 passengers.

      EK do not need to fill the A380 to generate more revenue than the 777-300ER,

  11. I’m curious how A350-1100 fits into this.
    Scott mentioned a purported A330NEO EIS timeframe, but how does going ahead with engineering for A350-1100 affect Airbus’ capacities here?

    Even without a new stretch of A350, Scott’s EIS for A330 seemed a bit early.
    Regardless, the choice to go with 787 derived engines for both or hold out a bit longer for something better seems to hinge more on Airbus’ goals with A330NEO/X, as either approach seems to at least keep A380NEO competitive for it’s prime use case customers. If they go with only 787 derived engines, I can see them more strongly developing around shorter range capacity. If they go with newer gen engines they can extend that range a bit longer and still be competitive, although it comes down to market analysis whether a marginal range extension would be worth it in gained customers vs. increased value for shorter range requirement customers.

  12. Brilliant we just loved it thank you, our calculators were out & red hot, equally, when informed our chaps at corporate presentation appreciated the in depth research involved in producing such an article.

  13. A while ago I looked at full passenger payload-range of 777-300ER and A380 from HKG to LAX. There is a lot of cargo volume left for cargo on a 777, but no payload capability. It’s payLOAD restricted, not payVOLUME. I guess on a lot of long flights from Asia.

    Free cargo positions ex luggage don’t show the cargo load reality on the long cargo heavy flights from Asia the 777X and A380 are made for.

    • Advantage: The eastern flight appears to be more favored by winds, and the majority of cargo moves east, too. Trade deficit in action. The article says 3 hours less flight time (going east versus going west), which easily yields 15t available additional payload (a B777-300ER burns roughly 8-11t of fuel per hour (depending on weight, the upper value at 780klbs, the lower at 500klbs)).

      • The far bigger issue for a B777-300ER is the take-off performance. For a twin there are much more occasions where field restrictions reduce the effective MTOW.

  14. One small point; A380 economy seats, 10 abreast, are wider then 777 seats at 9 abreast. It seems the seatcounts are based on 777X 10 abreast, assuming a A380 can not have 11 abreast, after 2020.. or even more then 525 seats, when Airbus itself uses 550 already, still 10 abreast. Too much apples to oranges for the tables above.

  15. basically, this is a confirmation that 777-300ER, 747-8 Intercontinental and A380 are in the same ball park in term of fuel efficiency expressed on a per seat-mile basis.

    At last someone admits it.

    And the very scary thing is that the 777-9 will present two digits percentage fuel efficiency advantage versus the 777-300ER, 747-8i and A380.

    I think it was obvious since the very beginning.

  16. I am always bamboozled by all these calculations, I am not bright enough to crunch through the numbers, the graphics certainly help, so thanks Leeham.

    And yet Emirates buys 50 more A380s in 2013 (confirmed). Tim Clarke boasts about how he has shared data about the 777x with Qatar to drive a harder bargain with Boeing. Orders 150 but they don’t make the year end totals for Boeing. The same Tim Clarke is hot with the numbers of all his flying metal, how could he miss such compelling numbers as these and still buy more uneconomical A380s?

    I think he knows something is coming up with the A380 and he has got in early. Meanwhile, he plays his normal game with the media.

    • A 5% disadvantage is not a death sentence. The A380 and B777-9X are quite far apart in positioning. The A380 is unbeatable in Pax-heavy city pairs. It further is less restricted by hot’n high issues.
      It would be a death sentence if both aircraft covered the same market (like the A340-600 and B777-300ER did). However, the competitive position of the A380-800 is strongly challenged. Especially smaller carriers (and in comparison to EK pretty much all carriers are small) will stay clear of the risk of VLA operation, which may earn big in good times and fail epic in bad times.

    • Fuel costs are just one part of the equation. Another part is money.

      According to Leeham’s standardized seating capacity each seat on a 777-300ER costs about $0.93 million and the 777-9X is at $0.95 million but the A380 is at $0.77 million (according to list price). The difference is more than $150,000 per seat. The seat mile costs are $0.055 to $0.048 for A380 to 777-9X. The difference is $0.007 per mile. That is about 20 million miles or 25,000 hours of flight (without interest).

  17. Hi Scott, maybe I missed the data in your post but I don’t believe you mentioned the payload weight studied for each aircraft. Can you confirm? Also, do you confirm that the fuel burn numbers cited are relevant for the stated range at given payload? Many thanks.

  18. Whichever way you lean, the GP72000 looks to be in need of life support for the future .
    The next GE investment would appear to be a buyout of Pratt in the Engine Alliance.

  19. Prima Job, Scott … it very acutely puts the finger on where the shoe hurts in a full-length dual Main Deck fuselage : the pax count requisition for CIL upon under-belly volume jeopardizes the pay-freight capability of the A388 … and the situation will not improve for A389. Your table re-computed for 4,500 nm and leveraged from cargo business would tell the full story. Therefore I’d venture that the high end of the Airbus product portfolio is inconsistent as is : Airbus has willingly abandoned serving an increasingly important piece of the long range air transport business to WB paxliner belly-freight and their WB paxliner-F ‘dedicated’ cargo companions, condemning customers to selecting 777F + 777 wherever cargo makes a difference. For this very basic reason, l propose that if Airbus has in mind to pursue into the next two decades their A38X programme, there is an acute need to – IN PARALLEL – offer a dedicated TEU-liner with $/FTK costs better than for WB belly-freight, marginally costed. This will release the business pressure on belly-freight and cut the grass under the feet of the 777X.

    • The alternative – or à fortiori co-strategy – would be an A34X Series rivival (NEO-tized, obviously, retrofittings and P2Fs included) so as for Airbus just not to leave the Long Haul [belly-freight + main-deck ULD] business segment uncovered, as it were ‘easy meat’ for 777 + 777F to grab undisturbed … each such ‘revived’ A340 = one 777 (777-9X) sold less. The sensationally higher ROIC vs newbuilds makes sense as does the Residual Value incrementation !

  20. A few technical remarks.
    I was a bit suspicious on the numbers.
    Table 2: it says “Range with given payload” is 8200nm for the B777-300ER.
    The zero-fuel weight is appr. 205t with that load (no cargo, full pax, DOW 170t). The range you can read from published payload-range chart is more like 7700nm (351.5t MTOW). But maybe the chart one I have is not current any more.

    Second, trip fuel. it says 114.4t. Great circle distance SFO-HKG is 6020nm, so with 5% detour a useful number is 6300nm. The trip fuel appears even a bit conservative (it suffices for a 14-15h flight). However, dividing the distance by the fuel gives me something like 3.5..3.6l/100km and seat.

    As these numbers are quite opposite to what Airbus and even some operators are reporting (who put the B777-300ER at a disadvantage), it would be great to have a few more information how the numbers where calculated. Where actual performance tables available? Which weight numbers have been used?

  21. @OldAeroGuy and others:
    Thanks for the interest in the analysis and for checking our figures. We have re-checked everything and indeed the 777-9X trip fuel burn is incorrect. Our model was fine, it was rather a fault when the table was made. The 777-9X trip fuel was taken as 120.5t, should have been 102.5t. Here the correct values for the 777-9X:

    - Trip fuel tonnes: 102.5

    - Fuel cost per seat mile: $ 0.041
    - Fuel per seat and 100km: 2.42 l
    - Fuel consumption per seat: 74,0%.

    Another fault which has been spotted is the LD3 positions for A380 and 748, shall be 38.

    The changed figures for the 777-9X does not change the conclusions but it does make a A380neo more pressing come 2020.

    • Scott, using your model, one should keep in mind that the floor area of the 777-9X is still only about 345m2. The effective floor area of the A380-800 is some 58 percent larger; or around 545m2. Just using effective floor area as a metric, the A388 would have to burn 102.5t x 1.58; or about 162 tonnes of fuel in order to have the same fuel burn per square meter.

      Now, you’ve got the seating capacity of the 777-9X at the 75 percent level of that of the A388. Is that really a very realistic assumption considering the fact that cabin floor area of the 777-9X has only about 63 percent the area of that of the A388 (i.e 345m2/545m2)?

      Also, xwb in the first comment of this thread, pointed out that Airbus has increased the default seating capacity from 525 to 558 seats — due to the fact that the upper deck is more optimised for premium class seating — while the main deck is more suited for economy class passenger; that is, if you want to maximise the seating capability in order not to waste floor area by putting first and business class seats on the main deck.

      Finally, with 9 across in economy class, you’ve got 344 seats for the 777-300ER, which IMO is not that realistic a number as it is very close to the Emirates 77Ws that have 10 across in economy and 7 across in business class. For example, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines both have well below 300 seats on their three-class 77Ws (i.e. first, business and economy). Hence, in my humble judgement, it looks like your numbers for the triple seven are slightly inflated while for the A388 they are slightly deflated. ;-)

      • OV99, you are raising a good point. We wrote:

        “Airbus has admitted that the A380 is too lightly loaded at 525 passengers.”

        On Airbus website under A380, the cabin they show is a picture of the cabin that XWB refers to with the label “A380 typical 3-class layout.” But that is it, with no reference in the surrounding text, nor mention in the A380 specification part of the website. We don’t know if it is a regional layout or to what rules it was made (we looked at it but could not judge if it was acceptable or not given our rules). What they list is the one we have used, and it adheres to the rules we have described. That it is more sparce then the -300ER can be seen in our table line m2/seat and considerably sparcer than the 777-9X (the line is there for that purpose). We have pointed out where the -9X violates our rules and the rationale for accepting it.

        Re airline cabins: these use other rules and seats than these standardized ones (staggered, reverse herringbones, other galley rules etc). Our cabins are made to the typical rules we see the OEMs use for their reference information, and we have used the same rule-set for all (with the -9X caveat), which makes things comparable. We have done the area checks you suggest (ref our m2/seat) but we use the areas that matters, such as the elbow areas, and there the 777-9X has 360m2 (we share your 545m2 for the A380). XWBs cabin information is interesting and we think that Airbus has a job ahead of them in all areas pointed out (aero, cabin, engines) to safeguard A380′s future.

        • OK Scott, I rechecked my numbers. In my previous comment, I used a cabin width of 5.84m instead of 5.94m that would be appropriate for the 777-9X. This is what I get:

          777-9X: Distance centre line of door 1 to centre line of door 5 = 55.63m

          Effective cabin width at 5,94m (assuming constant cross section) times the distance between the centre lines of doors 1 and 5 = 330.4m2. Furthermore, the floor area forward of the centre line of door 1**, plus the floor area aft of the centre line of door 5, minus the floor area “lost” to the fuselage tapering aft of door 1 and forward of door 5, is equal to slightly less than 25m2. Hence, the total effective area is about 355m2, and not 345m2, nor 360m2. :-)

          The equvalent number for the 777-300ER is about 334m2. It’s interesting to note, therefore, that the 4 inch greater internal width leads to about a 5m2 increase in effective floor area for the 777-9X

          ** The floor area of the flight deck is not included. On the A380 I didn’t include the floor area of the whole elevated forward area (i.e. cockpit, crew-rest, and toilets on EK’s A380s etc.), while subtracting the floor area lost to the forward stairs.

          -

          The same measuring method was used for the A380, where the effective main deck floor width is 6.3 m, while on the upper deck, the effective floor width of 5.3m is measured between the side storage bins. A second generation A380-800 could have a slightly raised floor*** on the main deck, as well as recontoured side walls that would allow for an effective floor area of up to 6.7m; or an overall increase in floor area of about 15m2 (i.e. not counting the non-seating areas where the floor would reamin the same).

          *** NB: The floor of the aisles would not be raised, just the floor under the seats.

          That would mean the revised numbers for the 777-9X vs. the A388, floor-area-wise, is 355m2/360m2 = 0.634; or about the same fraction as the one above.

          So, using the new Airbus default seating capacity from of 558 seats on the main deck, and “upgrading” to 11 across (i.e. 18 inch seats, 2 inch armrests and two 19 inch aisles, would mean an added seating capacity of 35 economy seats on the main deck; or 593 seats overall.

          Finally, it’s worth mentioning that on the triple seven, quite a few top-notch international airlines have up to half the length of the cabin set aside for first and business class seats. Since most of these airlines are moving away from a 2-3-2 seating configuration in business class, to direct aisle access for every business class seat, the extra cabin width of the triple seven is essentially wasted when compared to the narrower cabins of the A330, A350, 787 and the upper deck cabin of the A380.

        • Addendum and correction:

          That would mean the revised numbers for the 777-9X vs. the A388, floor-area-wise, is 355m2/560m2 = 0.634; or about the same fraction as the one above

    • Thanks for all that. It would sure be nice if the tables were corrected to reflect these new numbers as your charts will inevitably be posted around the internet as gospel.

  22. So, the big picture is

    1. The 777-300ER, the 747-8 Intercontinental and the A380 are in the same ball park in term of fuel efficiency.(on per seat basis)

    2. The A350-1000XWB and the 777-9 are in the same ball park in term of efficiency (on per seat basis).

    3. Both A350-1000XWB and 777-9 are about 20% better (or better) in term of efficiency on per seat basis compared to the 777-300ER, the 747-8i and A380.

    I conclude that A380′s future is bleak.
    What about the 747-8? Well, perhaps its freighter version will survive and then keeps the passenger version brother on the life-line.

    • I, and most others, would say that no matter what the A380′s future looks like, the 747′s future is more bleak.
      Granted the 747 has made Boeing lots of money over the years but I do wonder what the -8 is going to cost (or possibly make) them in the long run.
      But no matter how you dice it, when the 747s stop being delivered and flown, there will still be 380s.

    • “I conclude that A380′s future is bleak. What about the 747-8? Well, perhaps its freighter version will survive and then keeps the passenger version brother on the life-line.”

      So the fututre for the A380 is bleak but the 747-8 still has a chance. Interesting analyses VV. Detached from what we see in the market but ala.

      I see you opened an interesting post on the A330 NEO. http://verovenia.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/three-years/#comment-6608 My reply on A330 engine options and wing consequences evaporated after a while. Other posters experience the same. There must be some kind of bug in the software.

    • According to point 3 the only efficiency for an airline is related to costs and not just fuel efficiency. The price per seat is $950,000 for a B777-9X but just $770,000 for an A380. And some people like to notice that Airbus offers more discount… The 747-8i is at $880,000 but with higher fuel burn compared to the A380.

      The difference in seatmile costs between B777-9X and A380 is about $0.014 per mile. To make up the difference an aircraft has to travel about 26,000 hours at 500 kn. That calculation is without interest and the B777-9X is years away from showing what was promised.

      If the current A380 at 10 abreast can compete with the B777-9X then a A380 at 11 abreast can do it for sure.

    • A 10 percent decrease in fuel burn (i.e new engines and sharklets etc.) as Clark is damanding, and the A380 at 593 seats** overall, in three classes, should enable the A380-800 to just about equal the 777-9X in fuel burn per seat. While Boeing is reportedly going to spend $10 billion on the 777X programme, Airbus should IMJ get away with just $1 billion for upgrading the A388. If it’s done, as suggested by Scott, by using the same engines as on an A330neo, it would be a win-win situation for both Airbus and the engine manufacturer (i.e. assuming Rolls Royce as the sole source provider).

      **Please take a look at my comments above.

    • The bit that’s been left out of this scientific evaluation of these aircraft is that difficult to measure value – human behaviour. Airlines experience would seem to indicate that passengers prefer flying in the A380 over the other options. Clearly this is only an advantage to the airlines if there is sufficient traffic available on the route. A few extra percent on the load figure plays havoc with the numbers.

      Could be that the question is

      “Will an increase to 11 abreast seating take the appeal of the A380 away?”

      • “Will an increase to 11 abreast seating take the appeal of the A380 away?”

        Slightly so, I’d guess, but it would still be notably better than the 777-9X at 10 across

        With the main deck floor raised slightly, in addition to a slight recontour of the side walls, you could have 11 x 18 inch wide seats**, 14 x 2 inch wide armrests and 2 x 19 inch wide aisles. In the current configuration, you’ve got 10 x 18.5 inch wide seats; 13 x 2 inch wide armrests and 2 x 19 inch wide aisles

        On the 777-9X, you’ll have 10 x 17.2 inch wide seats; 13 x 2 inch wide armrests and 2 x 18 inch wide aisles. On the current 10 abreast configuration on the 777-300ER, you’ve got 10 x 17 inch wide seats, 13 x 2 inch wide armrest and 2 x 17 inch wide aisles.

        **18.18 inch wide seats at 11 across if using the same aisle width as that of the 777-9X at 10 across; 18.36 inch wide seats at 11 across if using the same aisle width as that of the 777-300ER at 10 across.

  23. There will be A380 sold for the next 20 years. No alternative always helps. People saying the 777-9X is a real competitor choose to ignoreraw capacity as a key driver in fleet composition. The 777-9X offer similar capacity as the A380. Main deck that is. CX UA and the Chinese will move. Not because they love Airbus but because there’s no real alternative moving 600 people.

    Towards the end of the decade RR will have the Trent XWB1000 mature as well as the carbon/ titanium fan technology( they pioneered in the late sixties/ early seventies). That seems a good moment. Some GP7000/ Trent 900TEN PIPs in the mean time.

  24. It seems the 330-NEO has defacto already been greenlighted some time ago.

    “There are airlines that show a preference for re-enging the aircraft”, says a fleet manager of an european operator. “Airbus has signalled these customers weeks ago they’ll do it that way.” [Source: aero.de, roughly translated]

  25. II abreast in economy is good if you are shuttling live-stocks, donkeys etc. But as it is, its getting ridiculous to move about in any aircraft these days. You sick guys are only interested in profits over passenger comfort. If more passengers die due to DVT or other conditions, perhaps multi-million law suits will wake you guys up!!!!!

    • 11 abreast with 18″ seat widths is still better than 10 abreast with 17″ and 17,2″ seat widths. However, I do agree that Boeing’s “race to the bottom” on seat widths seems to indicate that they are only interested in profits over passenger comfort. ;-)

      As for an elevated floor and 11 abreast cabin on the A380 and A360X ; please do note that if an operator would choose to keep the economy class at 10 abreast, you’d get 10 abreast with 20-inch seats instead. That would seem to be a great product differentiator. Something for Emirates, perhaps, when they order A380-800neos and perhaps even A380-900s.

      • “Boeing’s ‘race to the bottom’”?

        Please share with us where Boeing dictates the passenger accommodations of their airline customers seating choices.

        More airlines are providing Y+ seating in their configurations though.

        Comfort sensitive passengers such as Mike can pay more and sit in Y+.

        Price sensitive customers can pay less and sit in Y.

        • “Please share with us where Boeing dictates the passenger accommodations of their airline customers seating choices.”

          That’s easy — Cabin width.

          Or are you seriously suggesting that Boeing’s airline customers have a real choice of putting 5 abreast on, for example, the 737?

          -

          “More airlines are providing Y+ seating in their configurations though.”

          So how may airlines would that be? You know, as a percentage of all the world’s airlines?

          -

          “Comfort sensitive passengers such as Mike can pay more and sit in Y+.”

          Or he could choose to fly on A380s and with those airlines who are still flying around with 9 abreast 777s.

          -

          “Price sensitive customers can pay less and sit in Y.”

          Or they could choose to fly on A380s for the same price; that is, if they don’t book an EK ticket. Emirates, apparently, is charging more for flying on their A380s than on their 777s.

        • It is up to the airline what their seating arrangement is. Neither Airbus or Boeing tell their customers to not put 5 AB on an A320 or 737.

          Likewise, the 777 can be configured in Y at 8, 9, or 10 AB

          Beyond that, trying to find an A380 going where you want to fly may be a bit difficult since at the end of 2013, only 122 of them have been delivered vs 452 777-300ER’s.

          If Mike is in Hong Kong and has the desire to get to New York, he can fly non-stop on a CX 773ER in either Y+ (19.5″ cushion, 38″ pitch) or Y (18.5″ cushion, 32″ pitch).

          He can still go on an EK A380 (18″ cushion, 32″/34″ pitch) or any other airline’s A380 but it will involve a stop at least one other airport and a significantly longer travel rime.

  26. “It is up to the airline what their seating arrangement is. Neither Airbus or Boeing tell their customers to not put 5 AB on an A320 or 737.”

    I’m sorry, but few, if any airlines would be able to compete by having 5 abreast on the 737. Trying to get around the fact that the 737 is legacy constrained with respect to seat width at 6 abreast, is creative to say the least.

    • On the other hand, no airline has had to change the 737 6AB for past 47 years due to either comfort or economic issues.

      Why do you characterize this as a “race to the bottom”?

      • Didn’t you notice that I used quotation marks and ended the sentence with an emoticon? It wasn’t meant to be taken too literally. ;-)

        Back to the seat width issue; IMO, Boeing risks being at a competitive disadvantage vs. Airbus, when all of their products will realistically only be able to offer seats in economy class at a seat width of 17.2 inches. They will, of course, be trying to get around that fact by continuing to obfuscate what obviously is an issue for quite a lot of passengers.

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