Defence Notes

Enter the all-economy A380

16th January 2009 - 19:50 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The dream – some would say nightmare – of an airliner with a thousand souls aboard has come a step closer with the decision by Air Austral to order a pair of Airbus A380s.

The airline, based on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, plans to operate the aircraft in single-class configuration, with about 840 economy seats. This compares with a standard Airbus specification of 525 seats in three classes and the sub-500-seat layouts chosen by early operators Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Qantas.

840 seats represents the maximum capacity of today’s A380-800. But the stretched A380-900, due to be launched as early as next year, would seat around 650 passengers in standard configuration and 900 in economy-only.  

Air Austral plans to operate the aircraft on its route from La Reunion to Paris. “Our vision is to provide a low-cost/high-quality service,” says airline president Gerard Etheve. “The A380 has the lowest cost per seat and is the most environment-friendly aircraft flying today, while at the same time providing a high level of passenger comfort.” 

Firm orders for the A380 now stand at 198 from 16 customers, with 13 aircraft delivered to airlines so far. Launch operator Singapore Airlines has six, Emirates four and Qantas three. Between them the three carriers offer A380 service on seven different routes. The latest to be added, Qantas’ Sydney-London service, was launched today. All three airlines fly the A380 to London Heathrow, making it the destination most served by the big Airbus. 

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