Bjorn’s Corner: Airbus Innovation days, activities and program updates.

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm


28 May 2015, C. Leeham Co: I am in Toulouse today attending Airbus Innovation days for Leeham News. It has been a good day’s briefings and I have presented what was perhaps the biggest change since we last met Airbus in the article “Airbus A350-1000 getting real”.

Apart from this program, there were more standard updates on Airbus other activities and programs. Here follows a rundown on these updates in a more paraphrased form.

Economy travel will change

There have been large changes in the airline industry for the last 30 years for the premium classes of flight:

Premium cabins 2015-05-28 20.21.25

But business travel is not an expanding market:

Screenshot 2015-05-28 20.11.48

The growing middle class of emerging countries is the real expanding market:

Middle class dev. 2015-05-28 20.11.13

It is therefore time to do something about the huge passenger market travelling at economy rates:

Travelling public in economy. 2015-05-28 20.11.32

This large market is not homogeneous:

Market segments. 2015-05-28 20.14.29

This results is a more and more segmented offering in economy class:

Screenshot 2015-05-28 20.29.56

Premium economy will be more and more standard for a mark up fee to economy and a stripped economy offering, basic economy (Web booking, buy drinks, food…) will also be offered.

Airbus program updates

A320 program:

  • Is moving to rate 50 in 2017. Airbus is now looking into increasing that to rate 60 by 2018, decision before end of year.
  • A320neo testing now with three aircraft, with the first CFM LEAP aircraft becoming airborne last week.
    Screenshot 2015-05-28 23.55.31
  • Pratt & Whitney GTF is on the ground for a week for a minor update to a compressor seal.
  • Certification and EIS on track for October delivery to Qatar Airways.

A330 program:

  • Delivery of A330-300 342t to Delta Air Lines during the day, program started summer 2012.Screenshot 2015-05-28 23.53.35
  • First sales of A330R (A330ceo with high density interior and papered low MTOW) to be announced at Paris Air Show.
  • Airbus confident they can sell enough A330ceo to stay with rate six per month for next year.
  • A330neo program started and on track, takes many experiences from A320neo but is easier to do as engine, Rolls-Royce Trent 7000, is mature (essentially a Trent 1000-TEN with simplified gearbox).Screenshot 2015-05-28 23.54.03

 A350 program:

  • Good operational experience. Over 11 hours daily utilization with good reliability level.A350 1 2015-05-28 23.57.26
  • Delivery to date only two aircraft to Qatar Airways as batch two aircraft have needed around two months of rework (traveled work from Pre-FAL, many little things that have consciously been planned to be completed at FAL, to keep time plan according to discussion with Evrard). As this rework will diminish for later batch two aircraft (MSN 5 to 20) and almost disappear for batch three aircraft, the FAL will increase deliveries with first Vietnam Airways aircraft in June and first Finnair aircraft in September. Then deliveries increase so that 15 aircraft can be delivered this year.

A380 program

  • Considerable efficiency gains to be made by reconfiguration of cabins, also for smaller details like combined Flight and Cabin crew rests and change of place of First cabin to upper deck with Premium economy on First’s lower deck forward part.A380 updated 2015-05-29 00.34.54
  • Denser and more segmented seating capacity with premium economy and 11 abreast basic economy.A380 cabin segm. 2015-05-28 20.15.29


Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier finished the day by saying that what the audience is seeing is a changing Airbus. The large developments are now behind Airbus and the next decade will see smaller incremental improvement programs. He said that it is to early to say when an A380neo will be part of this incremental process but he was convinced it will happen one day.

51 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: Airbus Innovation days, activities and program updates.

  1. Hello Bjorn

    The A380 slide is nice
    Showing 2 weight gains for a total of 1.5 t
    So almost new cabin for the A380
    Some on twitter (I have the names :d) are doing a lot of noise against the 11 ab budget economy section …
    Can we see it in refurb A380 ?

    • One shall see the 11 abreast A380 seating as an option for an LCC A380 carrier and as a potential basic economy class, not normal economy.

      • Is there really a market for a true LCC long distance A380?

        I remember seeing the assessment for the trans Atlantic flights that an A380 might work on those but not used.

        • There was the comment from John Leahy that this might be the use of A380s coming of lease at SQ and EK, these can be released for around $1m, a new large widebody cost more to lease per month.

  2. Question for anyone in the know: what do Boeing/Airbus do to reconfigure cabins and enable more seats abreast? Do they just shrink seat width? Or do they also somehow find a way to widen floor space, e.g. by thinning out the walls or changing curvature… how does this work?

    Also, what are typical seat widths for high density economy; is it 18″? have we seen 17″ anywhere?

    How about regular economy?

    And premium economy

    And finally widebody business class?

    Just curious… thank you!

    • What they do is looking at the cabin area as a whole and then start to re-layout things like lavatories, galleys, crew rests etc to use every inch of space to the max in areas where they can not place seats and thereby moving e.g. lavs from seating areas to areas on the side of galleys (A350 rear galley, check the link in my Thursday A350-1000 article) and they also use slimmer lavs which frees seating area.

  3. The possibility that an 2020 a380neo are very slimm because

    * Only one potential buyer
    ** Doesn’t match the 777X and A350 fuel consumption
    *** New engine offer 5% fuel reduction not 10-12%
    **** Too large for most routes
    ***** 2-3 billion dollars development cost
    The best upgrade an a380 would be new winglets

    • That’s why they need to do a “stretch” – which in the case of the A380 just means going to the original planned “Basis/sweet spot” lenght. Anything about this plan (center wing box, wing area, structure, landing gear, weight limits) is designed for a -900 (and even a 80m plus -1000). That hampers the A380-800, because in reality, it is the “shrink” nobody likes in the long run. Furthermore a strech would at least help the cargo cabapilities a lot, because you get every inch of the stretch. In combination with a slighly higher main dack it would be a deal. The icing on the cake OFC would be a new CFRP wing with folding wingtips.

      I know all this is north of about 5b€ and probaly won’t happen. But it’s the only chance IMO to help the A380 in the long run. I agree that just a re-engining will give it probably another 100 orders from Emirates and maybe 20 more from Quatar, but that’s it. It won’t help after about 2025.

      • That’s really the conundrum. Both the stretch and the NEO would give it a big economic improvement (over a good one already)

        But to pay for it in the light of the not getting a return on the investment as noted is always the iffy issue.

        If the market changes and demand actually for it does go up its a natural move but not until then.

      • A new carbon wing has to be close to 10 billion on the 777x or A380?

        • No new wing for the A380, new engines uncertain, stretch uncertain

          • Of course. We all know that Airbus isn’t willing to spend big ATM. It’s just what is necessary in the long run. There are rumors of a very small stretch of two frames (was it you?) but that’s it.
            But again, I stay to my words, just a new engine on this “shrink” may give it another 5 years of life (EK) but that’s it.

  4. * Only one potential buyer
    !? ANA, CX, UA, DL, SAA, Turkish, China, Garuda, TAM, existing operators like BA, SQ, AF..

    ** Doesn’t match the 777X and A350 fuel consumption
    That’s not what I generally hear. Unless one starts miss-using seatcounts.

    *** New engine offer 5% fuel reduction not 10-12%
    Do you have any info. A A380 NEO would be in the next few years so engines would probably a little newer then 777X and A350.

    **** Too large for most routes
    The hubs are booming ever

    ***** 2-3 billion dollars development cost
    Yes. But?

    The best upgrade an a380 would be new winglets
    Yes, but cabin enhancements, new materials, system upgrades, etc would also be in. Things develop in 15 years.,480/51b9611866b446c58a770257767f2254-a380-slide.jpg

    • Keesje

      Because they consider to buy the a380 it doesn’t mean that are going to buy and move on ua, ana, garuda are not going to buy it cx doesn’t want it due to limited caro space DL will buy used a380 so no new orders. The only possible buyers are turkish and TAM but there are going to lease airplanes from amedeo. SO GO AWAY WITH IT AND USE THE SAME AIRLINES ALL THE TIME MR KEESJE

      • Those airlines might not be very interested in buying the CEO, but that does not necessarily mean that they are not interested in a future NEO or -900 . That is a completely different story! We will get an answer to that as soon as Airbus announces specs, price and date of entry into service.

        • Emirates has stated they want the stretch, other complained early on lack of freight space.

          As we won’t see the NEO or the stretch until 2025+ we won’t know.

      • Stathis, you know things I don’t. Following the news, you have an even better understanding then those airlines themselves. CHEERS 😉

  5. Interesting comment from Mr. Bregier regarding the A380NEO!
    Can we conclude that there won’t be a NEO-launch at this years Paris Air Show? Would have loved to see that announcement, as I strongly believe that there is a business case for it, especially in combination with new wingtip devices (folding/winglet or similar) and a stretch to 80m.

  6. Some opinions indicate that if Airbus has decided on a simple NEO then the announcement will be at Paris.
    If the decision is to have the NEO and slight 2 frame stretch, then the announcement will be made at Dubai. The slight stretch will not make it a 900 yet but should be a 3 row stretch doubled as it is a double decker.

    Many commentators seem to indicate the NEO to be costly – however, if the NEO plan is to put a Trent 7000 on the old boy and change the software to cope with a slight COG adjustment – will it really be that costly? A slight revamp of the pylons will be needed. To Rolls Royce, if they can standardise on having a common engine for the 330 and 380 NEO’s- then the scale effects will be beneficial.

    • Yes if we utilize a trent 7000 there will be a 5% reduction in fuel consumption coupled with another 3% with winglets. This gives us 8%. A 7 meter stretch would be viable and indeed it could be more attractive to airlines because it could carry 16 tones of cargo as much as an 777-200 in ek configuration

    • I expect the new engine for the A380 to be the RR Advance in 2020 and the A380-900 with RR Ultra for 2025.

  7. Hello Bjorn,

    I have a question that is not really for this topic but anyway here goes:

    Is a Boeing aircraft made in medieval inches?
    Is an Airbus aircraft made in metric?
    Is a GE og P&W engine in inches?
    Is a RR engine in metric?
    Is a CFM engine in metric og inches?

    If you have a 787 with RR engines you need tooling for both metric and inches?

    If you have a 737 with CFM engines is it all inches?
    If you have a 320 with CFM engines is it all metric?

    I was just wondering!

    Thank you

  8. Correction to above:

    “Is a CFM engine in metric og inches?”
    should read
    Is a CFM engine in metric and inches?

  9. To my knowledge, all aircraft and engines are engineered in metrical system (thanks to CATIA). Even in metric aircraft you find surprisingly often the value of 0.127mm, which is 1/20 inch.

    • All engines I ever worked on (GE, PW, no RR) were designed in inches (even if drawings had both in and mm).

      Cannot vouch for bolt heads and nuts, but I think they were all in inches.

      Should not be a problem however as each engine has a defined toolset and a mechanic would have the tools for the engines he is trained on.

  10. Looking at premium econ, who wants a middle seat in 2-3-2 or 2-4-2. The A380 could have three aisles, 2-2-2-2, all aisle or window seats for premium econ.

    • @ Ted : Janne Carlzon’s idea – the P-cube or 2+2+2 – has a draw-back : above a double seat there is scarce room for an overhead stowage bin, plus you’re getting into head clearance issues. Apply this to A380 : better 1+3+3+1 than 2+2+2+2 ?

  11. True Ted, it would be much nicer to have aisle access for each seat. But not even all business class seats offer that.

    • Looking at LH, they have premium eco on the main deck of the A380. 2-2-2-2 on the A380 is the same width of seat as 2-4-2 on the 777. A seat that is about 23.5″ center to center of armrest, so plenty wide.

  12. The majority of the carriers that ply the ‘Blue Ribbon” route are in a weak financial position to commit to new aircraft. However, I expect to see announced at the Dubai airshow in November this year an improved version of the A380 to be available at the end of the decade that will appeal to a wider range of operators. Later this year i am sure BA will announce that one of the remaining aircraft on their current order will be put included onto the NY route and predict as the A380 continues to prove itself above others (e.g. the 787 is cramped and with the GE engines noisy) more A380s will join this sector (possibly some from the secondhand market).


  13. Well the nice thing about predictions is we can see if they come true!

    Mine is nothing more than incremental improvements on the A380 unless the orders pick up. Otherwise the tweaks only.

    And as the crowding in goes on with the A380 and maybe even the 11 across seats in non LCC ops, then you don’t get a lot of help there (quiet maybe yes)

    787 and the A380 have nothing really to do with each other, totally different markets.

  14. If there only was an airline that would commit to say 100 NEO’s it could be launched..

    If Airbus launches early, airlines will move deliveries to the NEO. Unfavourable.

    • If they are producing the 777 fuselage in twenty years(2035), the A380 fuselage is the same technology, so should be just as good at that date. If the dimensions of the A380 cross section are the optimal for a double deck, and I think they honed in on the right answer, then they still have 10 years to re-engine and/or reCFRPwing. Slow the line or take a hiatus in production for a few years until the update is ready.

  15. Emirates say that they would buy 200 A380NEO but airbus is reluctant to an neo for one buyer even if he would buy a lot. Other potential customes for the a380 are turkish airlines and qatar airways

  16. Lets finally left the needle from the vinyl record already. UA, CX, DL, NH, SAA, Guarda yada yada yada are not rushing to buy A380’s. One cannot use data like ” _____ is interested in the A380″ to say they’re going to buy it. TC of EK wanted the 748 and what happened? Qantas was on the design team for the 777 and never bought it. There’s no evidence of carriers wanting to buy more of them but there’s more evidence of carriers deferring orders and stating on record that they do NOT plan to order more.

    If the NEO was as easy as it appears to be, it would have been out already. Plane (pun intended) and simple. Combing the crew and flight area, along with adding seats incrementally here and there tells me that the NEO is not happening as soon as some would like. Airbus knows that EK, the only carrier championing the NEO, will buy the A380 whether there is a NEO or not because they have built their image behind it.

    Keesje—> “If Airbus launches early, airlines will move deliveries to the NEO. Unfavourable.”

    Nope. If Airbus does go through with the NEO, it would be counter intuitive to allow carriers to move laterally to the NEO from the CEO. The backlog stays the same and Airbus loses money.

  17. The a380 is pretty much dead with no new orders and many cancellation along the way i do not understand why airbus schould re engine a dead plane for just one customer.

    • @ martin : the A380 is sole VLAP in the market (the 747-8i is dead from obsolescence and lives on ICU oxygen transfused from the 747-8F) and as such is the sole viable response in frequency-saturated markets, which are the ever increasingly numerous (>10 million inhab) —-> (>10 million inhab) megacity hub-to-hub markets, wherefore the future of the A380 and siblings thereof (A380-900, A380-900 Combi …) is enticing !

  18. “Nope. If Airbus ……. move laterally to the NEO from the CEO. The backlog stays the same and Airbus loses money.”

    Nope. They would only go through if they have at least 2-3 NEO customers> 100 aircraft.

    • That argument is predicated on the hypothetical “if”. When those 2-3 potential NEO customers make themselves known, we’ll revisit this topic. But for now it just adds mud to the topic.

      “Other potential customes for the a380 are turkish airlines and qatar airways”

      I don’t think Turkish Airlines is interested in A380 anymore since MH wants to keep their A380’s and their reluctance to buy new. Best case scenario is if they get a short term (but extremely expensive) lease from Amedeo. Qatar is an anomaly. The ceo changes his mind more than nickel changes sides on any given day.

  19. Oh no,you’ve kicked off the A380 neo debate again!I suppose I should join in.One thing that has become clear to me is that the next “available “size up from the 777-9 is the A380 900.The other thing is that Emirates still has the option of running older A380s on for a bit if Airbus stops building,or while they wait for the Neo.

    • Grubbie is that the OCD of ‘A380 opinion’ that everyone appears to suffer from?

      …… Here is my go, A380 will continue to be produced essentially in its current form for 3 years before some form of NEO/900/wing sabres combo are announced off the back of Emirates and Turkish orders for 100 + frames. They maintain the 30 per annum production rate and introduce a freight option to take up where the 747 left off.

  20. To sum up turkish airlines is not interested anymore. Qatar is changing her mind all the time so there is only one onother potential customer left. Cathay Pacific. last month they have stated that ” If a new engine option yields greater efficiency we would interested in looking at it”
    So maybe and i say it very cautiously there is a possibility for cathay to order the a380neo

  21. To quote

    ” Fabrice Bregier. “
    He remains upbeat about the A380’s prospects, despite acknowledging that the type “is in not such a very positive mood” because the market is “probably a little more limited than what we expected”, particularly given that certain customers are experiencing “some difficulties” in their broader operations.”

  22. Herb S
    The 11 abreast configuration for A380 could be offered for those who want really cheap fares, with the 10 abreast remaining the standard. I believe about 65% of 777 delivered last year had 10 abreast, originally introduced by Emirates. An A380 at 11 would certainly be superior to a 777 at 10 or a 787 at 9.

  23. How much can engine and airframe PIPs reduce fuel consumption ?

  24. Thanks for this informative, well-written report.
    Looking forward for more copy.
    Best regards,

  25. “On the A380 discussion, nothing has changed over the last 10 years. The backlog stayed 5 years.”

    Isn’t the point to grow the backlog beyond the 5 years?

    “An A380 at 11 would certainly be superior to a 777 at 10 or a 787 at 9.”

    EK asked Airbus to do 11x but then decided not to do in fear that it would damage the brand of EK, along with the middle seat in the middle row configuration. 3-5-3. Airbus is now offering the layout to airlines but reaction to it seems to be tepid, if anything at all.

    “So maybe and i say it very cautiously there is a possibility for cathay to order the a380neo”

    CX is focusing on larger twin widebodys and frequency as opposed to shuttling throngs of people twice or thrice a day. See the whole caption from the website you referenced:

    {At the other end of the scale, Cathay is also watching to see what sort of offering Airbus will come up with for an updated A380. If a new engine option yields greater efficiency, “we’d be interested in looking at it,” says Chu. However, he stresses that Cathay is a big fan of the widebody twin-engine aircraft types, and the carrier would only consider a larger type if it offered better operating economics.}

  26. Improved A380’s– with mostly economy seating — will look good on more routes when airlines awake to the imperatives of global climate change — and must significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions per seat mile.

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