Topic of the Week: United and the A380

A380, United

There is a terrible rumor going around this week that United is going to take on 2 A380s, pretty much because Airbus is desperate and needs to place them somewhere for CHEAP. I can only hope this isn’t true, since the idea of inducting a new aircraft type for 2 lousy airframes seems crazy. And it’s not like this is an airplane United needs. Fortunately, United publicly seems to agree with that sentiment. We’ll find out eventually if that changes. What’s your take?

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67 comments on “Topic of the Week: United and the A380

  1. Cranky, in the linked article they talk about comparable per seat costs, but higher trip costs. I don’t understand what that means. Could you shed a little light?

    1. Each trip is more expensive, but there are more seats. So total cost/number of seats is less for the A380 than for any other plane. But the airline only gets the benefit if they actually fill the seats at the same (or comparable) average fare as smaller planes with lower trip costs but slightly higher per seat costs.

    2. Trip cost = the total cost of a flight – fuel, crew, aircraft rent, etc.
      Per seat cost = trip cost / # of seats

      Airlines like looking at things in terms of seats or seat-miles since it is the lowest unit and it is aircraft agnostic.

      An example of the difference – an a380 would cost more to fly from NY-Chicago than a regional jet. This makes sense because it is much bigger and burns more fuel. BUT, the cost per seat might be lower since fixed costs are spread over more seats, airplane is more efficient, etc.

      The a380 has a great cost per seat, but a high trip cost due to its size. The hard part for most airlines with the a380 is if you don’t fill all seats, then the lower seat cost is not a benefit.

      United uses multiple frequencies and multiple hubs, so we believe they would rather use smaller planes than bigger as it would be a challenge to fill the a380. Worse, even if they can in the high season, what about the low? And how many planes? It is expensive to have parts and crews and gates redone all for just 2 frames.

  2. Well, I imagine there’s a price point at which this does make sense, but it would have to be an *awfully* low price point.

    Are there any routes on which UA has multiple widebodies leaving at about the same time that are long enough so that the multiple departure times don’t matter? I don’t know UA’s network well at all, but I don’t think so. There just aren’t any obvious, high demand, hub-hub or hub-joint venture partner hub routes for UA, which is where an A380 would be the least crazy for an airline with six-eight hubs (depending on how you count) instead of the one-hub airlines for which an A380 is vaguely plausible. Maybe something like ORD-FRA? SFO-NRT?

  3. The trip cost is the total cost. So if you have a comparable seat or ASM/ASK cost, but more seats, the trip cost is going to be higher. I will be very upfront and say I have never been a big fan of the A380. I believe the A380’s in question were built for Skymark, who has gone out of business, leaving Airbus with a pair of White Tails. At this point with the possible exception of Emirates, I think most A380 operators are not interested in accelerating delivery, in fact some have been postponing deliveries.

    The problem with the A380 is that in spite of its size, it offers embarrassingly little reduction in ASM/ASK costs over a 747. I admit I haven’t seen the numbers from the manufacturer, but my thumbnails puts the ASM/ASK costs as slightly higher than either the 777-300ER or 787-9. By contrast, when the 747 arrived in the early 1970’s, it just about cut the ASM/ASK cost over a 707-3XX in half. There were strong economic incentives to be a 747 operator. Those economic incentives for the A380 are much smaller and it isn’t the only way to get lower ASM/ASK costs.

    The A380’s attraction is in situations where you have severe slot limitations at one or both ends of the route. Sydney and London Heathrow are probably the most slot restricted airports in the world. It gives you a way to sell more seats without requiring more slots. So these airports see a lot of A380 service. However
    the need to go through the largest airports has largely gone away. You can now economically service smaller cities directly with the 787 and A350 aircraft, both of which probably have better operating economics then the A380 and immensely lower trip costs.

    Just about every carrier that needed more seats into highly congested airports has bought the A380. That is the market for the A380. Once those orders were placed, the order book for the A380 dried up.

    Having two unique aircraft in the fleet is a major headache. At least the 747SP had a lot of commonality with the rest of the 747 family. The A380 has essentially nothing in common with even the A320’s in the United Fleet.

    1. No. They can’t offer competitive pricing or product with Emirates. I would fly it SFO/LAX-NRT. Even then, I would still want to take ANA.

    1. Airbus has never gotten a certification for cargo operations. They wanted to but the bottom fell out of the air freight world and it is only now starting to recover. The A380 would have to be retrofitted with a stronger floor (as all conversions are). Also not sure how economical an A380 would be for cargo.

  4. I heard that Avatar airlines is looking at those two A380’s for LAX-LAS service because everyone likes flying to Vegas.

      1. Don’t forget that if you opted to keep the window in your row up for any part of the itinerary, your entire row had to pay the “tour package add on fee,” so that it could actually see the landmarks that the FO was pointing out over the intercom.

  5. The real story here isn’t whether United takes the 380, but why Airbus needs to unload them cheap. The building of aircraft is a very interesting business where development cycles take decades and cost billions. For airplane junkies it might be super cool that the Concorde was developed, but from a straight business standpoint is was a loser. Vanity doesn’t pay the bills. Not saying the A380 is the same thing, but I would say building a ridiculous sized aircraft to best the 747 was a pursuit that stroked ego’s in Toulouse. Had they instead focused on the A350 to bring it to market ahead of or in-line with the 787 may have been a smarter move. Just my 2 cents from an airplane history junkie.

  6. Serious question: Airbus has a backlog of A380 orders. So why does a canceled order result in white-tails that need a new buyer? Can’t they just deliver to whomever is next on the list?

    1. IIRC Airbus hasn’t booked a single new order for the 380 in over 2 years now. Those that can make the economics work have ordered their planes. Airbus has done a poor job of convincing new operators.

      1. Right, but they’re still actively making planes; they have a bunch of old, but unfilled, orders. My question is why these two planes can’t be put toward filling their existing order book.

        1. That is true, your theory is just “make 2 less planes at the end”

          Unfortunately, most a380 operators do not want to take deliveries any faster or earlier and there are no plans to speed up production that could be delayed by 2 frames.

          So, the problem comes in with cash flow and production lines. It is not cost effective to hold onto inventory of 2 expensive aircraft “until the end.” Since production rates dont change, even if you put these next for delivery, they will be replaced by inventory of the next 2 off of the line since deliveries aren’t being sped up. Over time would add up to a lot of money not being put to good use. The other alternative is to “pause” the line to absorb those two. But it would be too expensive / difficult to get all suppliers to do that, and contracts generally mean you would pay labor rates anyway. So the goal is to get these two frames sold as quickly as possible, even taking a loss, as they represent a cash drain that likely wont be filled anytime soon.

          1. This is an absolutely great comment and says everything I would have said, but with many fewer words.

    2. Airlines have a lot of options when they purchase an aircraft. From things like where the toilets are, if it has a crew rest area, where the flight attendant prep, color of the walls/carpet, everything down to the coffee maker. If they are very much different than the ones in their fleet, they probably have to have different training manuals or even things related to safety. Airlines love commonality. No some airlines love to buy a used aircraft and completely strip it down and reconfigure it to their needs. Delta does this regularly. But a used aircraft probably needs to be torn down during the D Check. A brand new one off the line doesn’t so it does not make economical sense. The two white tails would probably be best placed with an airlines that doesn’t have any of the type. Then once more are ordered they would match them up to their existing ones.

    1. Sorry: that was a lousy attempt at a humorous reply to “how does cargo fit in?” but I missed the reply button…

  7. Yeah I thought I saw something were UA said the A380 wouldn’t work for them. But you never know, it could be a short term least just to test them out. But since you can pretty much get to anywhere in the world from one side of the US or the other, they really don’t need them.

  8. So what’s the deal here now? I’ve noticed this week I now only see the comments left after I’ve posted one. The last comment I left was #16, so I’ll never get to see the 15 left before that.

    Also every once in awhile I get an email saying I’m being ‘paused’ from being sent anymore emails on whatever subject that the email was sent about because I said I didn’t want to see anymore. I have no idea what that’s all about.

    1. The man takes a week off and the whole comment system goes…well, wherever! Must be using one of the airlines’ rez systems, I guess, one that’s still working today?

      Then again, it’s probably just me, Mr. where I am?

    2. David SF (and others) – I’m not sure what happened, but the last update they pushed to the new comment system seems to have messed things up. I deactivated it for now and will try again the next time I see an update. Sorry about that.

  9. It would be an expensive mistake. Costs of training, facilities and maintaining 2 aircraft would be prohibitive. Would be better off with 747-8.

  10. These aircraft are almost certainly the A380’s currently being flown by Malaysian Airlines to and from LHR. They have put them and many other aircraft up for lease or sale to try and prevent closure, despite already letting a third of the staff leave. However a fleet of 2 makes no sense at all, if they could get the 6 aircraft MAS has then West Coast to SYD, LHR and FRA might make sense as on those routes UA now tends to be the last rather the first choice

  11. United has a fleet of about 23 747-400’s which are getting long in the tooth. The only way I can see them fly the A380 in any number would be union contractual issues with the 747 pilots and possible desire to sell more seats in slot restricted airports.

    777’s and A330’s have been successful in routes like TPAC and TATL. If you read between the lines, airlines and their investors care about restraining number of seats and not funding maintenance of 4 engines.

  12. As much as I love A380s, I have to say they’re pretty high-cost. You have to fill the seats all the way, and at that point, why not just fly two 777s and have more frequency?

  13. The only was I see this happening is if Airbus offers an insanely sweet ‘try it, you’ll like it’ deal. They would have be willing to eat training and mx costs thus giving UAL a risk/cost neutral incentive to test the type.
    First problem with such a scheme is it reeks of despair. Airlines that are riding the fence about future 380 orders would see this as a sign that the program is in dire straits and who wants to order billions dollar Edsels. Second is the world class #%+¥ fit Boeing is bound to throw. Last thing Airbus wants is Congress getting hands on about their commercial dealings in the US. The political muck would thicken when the EFTA Court follows suit and starts turning over rocks in Europe.
    I can not see an economic case filled with huge unintended political consequences to be worth unloading 2 white tails.

  14. Personally doubting this particular for 2 aircraft deal is going to happen, but as was said earlier you have Malaysia’s 6 A380s in play. That is what is going to make the market interesting.

    Didn’t one of the Middle East airlines hint at putting their oldest on the used market as they are still waiting for newer ones to come on board? I could be wrong or this was the typical online chatter of the possibility of a NEO A380.

    BTW – I failed to mention the A350 in my previous post and only brought up the 777 and A330, but my thoughts are about United’s 747 fleet growing old. My honest opinion is that it takes more than a 787 or A350 to replace a 747.

  15. In addition to the 2 Skymark planes, Malaysia is trying to sell theirs so if UA takes 2 they might as well get 8 or 10. United should be encouraging these rumors to squeeze better deals from Boeing even if no intention of getting A380s.

  16. I am really surprised – and sorry – that Cranky has this attitude to the A380. For this passenger, it is the aircraft of choice for any flying journey.

    The order is just a rumor, so why react so aggressively to a rumor?

    1. Cranky’s objection isn’t about the passenger experience. It’s that the A380 is very expensive to operate and there are very few markets in the world which can support it. Very few of those make sense for any US airline because they all have so many hubs and thus don’t have the demand on any one route to concentrate their traffic on a small number of long-haul very-high-demand trunk routes, which is the kind of route the A380 can be suited for. Therefore, it makes no sense for a US airline to spend the money on it.

      1. Emirates makes money on the A380 with an 80% load factor, and on some seemingly unlikely routes.

        So then is Cranky saying United can’t get an 80% load factor on certain plum trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic routes?

        1. Emirates has a single hub and a much lower cost structure than any US airline. (Whether they come by that lower cost structure fairly is question for another post.) And Emirates is very, very much the outlier in successfully operating large numbers of A380s. Also, they have an enormous A380 fleet. Operating a fleet type with just two planes is very expensive: you have all the expense of training flight crew and maintenance staff, maintaining an inventory of parts, and have little operational flexibility for when you need to swap out a plane for any reason (weather, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, etc).

          1. I’m am very aware of Emirates single hub and the remarkable (international) feed at that hub. United has an effective single hub for trans-Pac at SFO, with remarkable (domestic) feed.

            And – outlier or not – Emirates makes bulk money with the bird. All the reasons why have been thrashed out many times. That really isn’t my point.

            I personally doubt this rumor about United taking the 2 x A380, I suspect it is just someone making mischief. .

            But as I said at the git-go, I am surprised and sorry to see Cranky take this aggressively negative attitude to a rumor.

            1. “United has an effective single hub for trans-Pac at SFO, with remarkable (domestic) feed.”
              Sorry but no it doesn’t. United serves the big Asia-Pacific airports from multiple US hubs (SYD from 2, HKG from 3, PVG and PEK from 4 each and NRT from 8). The only TPAC routes served solely from SFO are CTU, HND, TPE, ICN and KIX. And MEL is only served from LAX.

            2. Again, I’m aware that. SFO may not be the exclusive trans-Pac hub, but it’s still adman good one.

            3. To davywavy:
              But the point about EK is that because they only have one (very low-cost) hub, they funnel everyone through DXB.
              This allows high traffic destinations (LHR, SYD, JFK, apparently even CDG and SFO) to be served by the 380 because so much traffic is being forced onto these connections. There’s no equivalent hub in the UA system — its high traffic destinations (LHR, LAX, JFK, NRT, SYD, etc.) are served by multiple hubs so even if you have a destination that can be served by the 380, it probably makes more sense to serve it via smaller aircraft from multiple hubs.

            4. And Dubai has a population of about 4 million, whereas the US has a somewhat more.

  17. How could you run an effective service with just two airframes? That would only allow one route per day – assuming we’re thinking TATL/TPAC – or two with no backup aircraft in the case of irrops. And that route would have to be around 10.5 hours max, so that limits your TPAC range to basically Tokyo.

    1. I’ve absolutely no idea. A two aircraft fleet doesn’t make sense to me, unless they’re some kind of trial run.

      I’d assume – if there was any basis to this rumor whatsoever – that it wouldn’t just be two aircraft, that the airline would negotiating for at least five, perhaps with these two as the core of it.

      But since United has indicated that isn’t happening, I can’t imagine why anyone is taking the rumor seriously.

      When United says they are negotiating for A380’s (any number) then I might believe there is some truth to it.

    2. Actually you can operate a pair of aircraft over routes much longer than 10.5 hours. QANTAS
      had a pair of 747SP’s that spent most of their life shuttling between LAX and SYD. That was typically about 13.5 hours. AA operated a pair of 747SP’s between DFW and NRT for a number of years. In both cases it was because the SP was the only available aircraft that could fly the missions.

      You can operate a two aircraft fleet but heavy maintenance is a headache. Fortunately for QANTAS it turned out that if you load a 747-300 up like an SP (and QF only had about 180 seats and carried a whopping 100kg of cargo with the SP’s when they few the LAX-SYD run), the 747-300 had comparable range.

      I suspect the real problem with the Skymark airplanes is probably the cabin configuration. A380 cabin configuration are much more thoroughly integrated into the airframe that the configurations on other wide bodies. IIRC, cabin configuration had to spec’d out about 18 months before delivery on the A380.

      So a major change in configuration is going to be both expensive and time consuming, That is probably the real reason they cannot simply turn over the aircraft to another A380 customer. The cabin configuration is unworkable. (Skymark was a budget carrier, so there isn’t much of a premium cabin), and it will take longer to convert it as it would take for next A380 to come off the line.

  18. Like most, I hope that this is some kind of fantasy rumor. FGS, UAL is the only U.S. Flagger still trying to fill seats on their remaining 747-400 (?~~ about a dozen?) on routes from SFO. UAL rarely fill the seats and, if quietly, we know that(*). Why on earth would they want an even larger airplane on long haul routes that already under perform? This must be no more than a rumor, and a bad one at that. At the end of the day, only genuine fools fly international long haul on our own carriers and especially UAL from SFO. We can do better, we do do better and sadly, usually not with our very own airlines. There are many faults, often including price, but the most glaring is in-flight services. Even in the better seats, “J” and “F” when it is still available, the cabin crews fly them because they can. (Big hours for very little work. The most junior FA, literally the trash collector, would be the senior cabin manager on any other route.)
    The idea that UAL *may* be interested in a pair or used A380s is far left of silly. Unable to regularly fill a 747-4 on their ‘big’ routes, what woulld lthey do with an AB380?
    There are many other reasons to believe this rumor to be just that – a silly rumor. One can begin with maintenance needs. Who geots trained to maintain an A380 and, with a ‘fleet’ or two, perhaps three, who would take it and then stay fir even five years? Hoooow many more reasons do we need?

      1. @Oliver: two very subjective sources. 1) several miserable and unfortunate personal experiences on UA 747s and 2) A WAG. (Wild *ss Guess). Scientific? Of course not. Most likely true? I think so.
        UA’s operating costs for the two airplanes may be similar (paid, seat-filling cheeks/2 against total trip cost if you will) may be very close, but the remaining 744s are essentially paid for and require only extensive maintenance, no capital cost for new or nearly new aircraft. The available A380s may be inexpensive at the moment, but they are still more expensive than the existing fleet. Don’t forget staffing and current maintenance: adding a new type, fleet of 25, or only two, still requires a huge investment in Mx capability, both training the talent and stocking the parts. (Expect a lot of AOG time.) And flight deck training and staffing? How many captains and first officers are necessary to operate a fleet of two birds. Fully qualified 744 pilots are easy to find and/or retrain. A380 drivers likely not. They CAN be trained, but only at great expense. Before even one airframe can enter revenue service, some poor soul at UA my write a thousand or more pages of SOPs that comply with UA practices, Airbus practices and FAA regulations, a process that does not happen overnight. And for the rumored two aircraft?
        If the purchase (or term, dry lease) makes sense any sense for UA, I sure don’t see it.
        As for UA’s existing 744 fleet, for some of these same reasons, they have been trying to consolidate the vast majority at SFO. That’s smart, but only partially effective. And, as we’ve already seen with UA and countless other operators, when the individual airframes approach the extremely expensive “D-Check,” 744s most often get stored for a few years and then sold for parts. I do not know how long UA’s remaining 744 fleet can fly before requiring a “D-Check,” but two A380 won’t solve their capacity problem on any popular route. Where possible, UA will probably migrate to slightly smaller ETOPS-qualified twins, perhaps increasing frequency where possible and settle for the revenue benefits of a slightly smaller airplane, but one almost always full. (We may hate it, but they love it!)
        And lastly, UA apparently believes that their 744 fleet to too close to “D-Checks” or parting that they will not invest a dime in upgrading the interiors – or the 744-able services. Those old interior feature show and are obvious. Even without a complete make-over, a periodic revision of service standards or a seriously thorough, deep cleaning would help. A lot.
        My most recent experience on a UA 744 was ~5 months ago, business class, headed for points west from SFO. The airplane was absolutely FILTHY. I later learned that the aircraft had been ‘AOG’ for three days, awaiting a couple of critical parts. Why, during those three days, UA could not manage a truly thorough cleaning is beyond my understanding.
        I hope that helps to answer your question, Oliver. I have no ‘inside’ information about UA’s load factors and must make conclusions from what I observe: A couple of flights were close to full, but the majority had roughly equal open space and filled space.
        Best regards and of course, reading Cranky’s columns is worthy time. Please do not confuse me with him. Even though I sign as “-C,” Brett remains “CF.”
        -C – or Cedarglen

        1. Several have made comments about the large maintenance investment required to support the A380. This simply isn’t true. Most A380 customers have in fact entered in maintenance contracts for both the airframe and engines (by the hour). Basically most A380 operators are avoiding substantial investments in maintenance part/training by contracting it back to the manufacturer for a fixed cost per hour.

          1. Thanks for the info; that’s news that I did NOT know. However, for an aircraft of that size and usually small fleets in relative numbers, contracting with AB DOES make sense. Even if the ‘hourly rate’ is extremely high, it avoids the need for the huge infrastructure necessary. -C

  19. It seems unlikely but then again maybe this a case of the right set of conditions that UA could take a shot at it. As has been suggested elsewhere the Asia Pacific market would seem to be the right location to operate the A380 and there are routes where UAL sometimes flies multiple flights a day to certain airports. If UAL gets the A380s at a steep discount…either by picking off Malaysia’s scraps or the two cancelled Skymark orders Airbus has yet to find a replacement buyer for…maybe it could make market sense…

    It still feels like a very long shot though. But I can’t fault the airline for at least taking another look at the issue to see if the economics which made no sense a decade ago make sense now.

  20. I don’t see any US operator purchasing a new (the two Airbus White Tails) or used (MAS’ two used ones) A380.

    1) Most US Airports don’t have gates that could handle them or the capability as it requires stronger/wider runways and taxiways. If they do it is usually just a single runway and one/two taxiways.
    2) Most US Airlines (UAL VP mentioned this specifically) prefer multiple flights per day on smaller aircraft than a single large aircraft. Most all are in the process of dumping Cat 5 aircraft (747s, older 777s) for 787s/A350s.
    3) US airlines like to have one type of widebody and one narrowbody. These can be families like (737 NGs or A320s). Cuts down on parts, amount of training for crews.

    Airbus is desperate as the entire industry is watching. This represents the first used aircraft (MAS) on the market as well as gauges demand for new. If MAS does not sell two fairly new aircraft, it shows that the secondary market is no existent. What will EK do as it usually dumps aircraft onto the secondary market around the 10 year mark. If they can’t sell them, will they cut their backorders and move to another aircraft? This ultimately killed the DC-10 and MD-11, no one wanted them except for the cargo world.

  21. Airbus is only repeating history here. Remember back in the 1970s when Airbus was manufacturing the A300 — they couldn’t get any US airlines to order the plane. So they let Eastern “lease” 4 of them on a trial basis for practically nothing. That was back in 1977 I believe. Eastern loved them, and consequently ordered 23 of them. So now, Airbus is once again having trouble getting a US airline to buy it premier airplane — so it will practically give them away to a US carrier in hopes of getting real orders after the trial. It worked for Airbus in the past.

    1. Maybe. But Airbus is in quite a different position now than they were in the 1970s. They’ve got lots of products that are strong competitors in the marketplace.

      That being said, Airbus does need to show that they realistically attempted to place the Skymark planes, as it’ll bolster their position in Skymark’s bankruptcy case.

      1. Thanks Nick,

        I agree with your thoughts. The ball is in AB’s court at the moment (no pun intended) and we’ll just have to wait to see how they play out the temporary excess of A380s. We will likely never know, yet one has to wonder about any unpublished financial arrangements between AB and the two airlines. I do not know, but suspect – that the purchase contract details include a host of ‘what-if’ details that forever remain confidential. Just a guess. Regards,

    2. Wow! A great memory and an accurate one too boot.

      That said, the A300 and 1977 are a bit different from the A380 and 2015. Despite UA’s extensive structure from the West Coast to Asia, and intra-Asia, that they would probably like to expand, I still do not see a very few A380s as a good response to a ‘nice’ problem to have. Two or four airplanes do not make a fleet. The startup costs must be horrible, nearly on-demand MX for such a small fleet also expensive, to say nothing of the direct costs to type-train and fully line-qualify multiple flight crews. (I think it is still legal for pilots to fly multiple types, but other than the A319,320,321 and B575,767 series, I don’t think any U.S. carriers actually do so. I may need correction here…) I wonder how many fully qualified crews, (Captain, FO plus whatever augmentation is necessary) are actually required to operate a VLA such as the A380. B744 and B748 crews are easy to find – or to quickly upgrade. A380 crews – um, not so fast. No matter the flight crew’s prior qualifications, even the (income hungry) UA is not about to handover a fully loaded A380 to a captain and FO with a cumulative, gross time-on type of 25 hours. Before accepting 450-500 paying pax, those boys and girls do need some real line experience and a whole lot more than 20 hours of cruise time. Pilots necessary x hours required x live landings/takeoffs = is Significant Dollars. Can UA afford that investment – does it want to – for a fleet of two or four?

      Even if the initial hardware cost (the used A380) seems reasonable, the remainder of the expenses leasing toward that first revenue flight are probably equal to a third (or fifth?) airframe. It is a huge investment and I wonder… does UA have the money? If they proceed with a small fleet of second-hand A380s, I wonder how long it will take them to achieve a significant return on their investment. (If only to add a small measure of snark, if UA does not improve their international on-board product and quickly, a decade-long payback could become a multi-decade payback or one that never happens.)

      At the end of the day, I simple do not see any viable case for UA to purchase a small fleet of second-hand A380 airframes. I think they are smarter than that, but we’ll see…

      So why has the A380 not sold well – at all – in the U.S. market? For better or for worse, we are in the middle of the developed world. Other airplanes carry the current loads from the U.S. to the extremes, well and because it still seems less expensive to add a B777-300ER flight than150-even 250 seats to a given flight. To make any aircraft viable, the carrier must fill most of the seat, most of the time.

      I miss things and I make errors, often. What have is here? I’m old, but not too old to learn.


      add 250-300 seats to a single flight.

      1. LH isn’t saying much but since they have experience flying both the 747-Intercontinental and the 380, I wonder how their loads, % of seats filled, and seat/mile costs compare. I flew the 747-800 into Washington DC, from Frankfort, and was extremely pleased with the service, comfort and amenities. I asked a few of the FA’s how they felt about the 800, adding a little of my background in the industry so hopefully they might offer their honest opinion as opposed to some superficial, “It’s Great”. All three I spoke with were very happy to have 747-8 lines, they were very familiar with the 400 and felt that the 800 had commonality while being more quiet, they loved the new interior and gallery improvements. One, Maria offered some comments from the folks up front who were very pleased with the new (787 copy) cockpit, the 800 is more responsive, requiring less physical stress, and very nimble. As has been mentioned even if the fuel burn/per seat cost wasn’t substantially less than the 380, if you don’t fill the 380, the 747-8 would be dramatically less expensive to operate. Our flight was 85-90% full without seeming crowded, something that you have always loved about the 747 series. If neither the 380 or the 747 book more orders, Boeing has the 747-F alternative, while AirBus will never offer a freight version, the structure isn’t strong enough to carry cargo.

  22. The business news regarding the 380 has all been negative while operational reports have been neutral to slightly positive. AirBus has not booked a new order for the 380 in 2 1/2 years and if you look at how they are distributed, the ME3 has ordered 180 of the 317. I suspect that United was thinking the South Pacific and competing with Qantas who flies to 380 into Dallas, and LA, and owes 12, so I would guess that United may have thought they could compete with Qantas, on the Sydney-LA segment with 2, maybe looking at adding another 2 for potential Sydney-Houston service. The biggest owner with half of all orders is Emirates flying 61 with 79 on order. Tim Clark recently attacked AirBus threatening to cancel some of his orders unless AirBus starts working on a 380 neo, which would require another $15-20 billion borrowed from the bank, on a unprofitable project to date. Clark claims the 787 is a cattle car, not part of his carrier’s future, with it’s 9 across seating, he is a 350 proponent, more specifically a 350 neo proponent, again insisting AirBus work on a re-do to turn this fattened 330 into a project that like the 787 has the newest tech wings and cockpit, a tires to tail new design. I doubt AirBus really wanted to build the 350 anyway, will they invest $12-16 billion to build a 350 neo.

    1. Since Clark is by far the largest A380 buyer, and the only one really keeping the assembly line alive, of course he carries some weight with the boys at AB. He also promotes their other aircraft, operates a huge fleet of same and it is reasonable to assume that in exchange, he achieves some substantial price breaks. He is an Airbus boy in the same sense that SWA and Ryan are firmly locked into Boeing’s corner. Different strokes…

  23. The United 747-400s that used to fly MEL-SYD-LAX and SYD-SFO were the pits for travellers. This is a 14 hour flight and was truly painful with the tight legroom and the lack of personal IFE that these aircraft had. The faster UA get rid of their 744s, the better. However, I doubt they would buy 388s to replace. I agree with the other poster that UA is still significantly behind other world airlines for quality of service. Living in Auckland, we are the only airport in the world apart from DXB where we have 3 Emirates A380s on the ground at the same time daily. All 3 A380s leave here for Australia (MEL, SYD, BNE – 1 each) and then on to DXB within an hour of each other. For such a long flight, the A380s are comfortable and obviously EK gets high-enough loads to maintain them. Long may A380s stay on the Kangaroo route.

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