Singapore 777-9 order pressures, but does not kill A380

Feb. 16, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Last week’s order by Singapore Airlines for 20 Boeing 777-9s and 19 Boeing 787-10s immediately was viewed by some as the death

Boeing 777-9.

knell for the Airbus A380.

The 777-9 order would start the final spiral down for the A380, some contend.

This overstates the case and misunderstands the nature of the order.

The A380 is in trouble, there no doubt about that. The 777-9 is putting pressure on the A380. There’s no doubt about this, either. But the contention the Singapore 777-9 order sends the A380 on a death spiral is wild fantasy.

An Airbus official appears today at the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) in Lynnwood (WA). Undoubtedly, he will maintain the party line that the future of the A380 is solid. This, too, overstates the case. There can be a future for the airplane, but some major decisions must be made.

The Singapore order

First, it’s necessary to put the Singapore Airlines (SQ) order into context. This is done through public information and through LNC’s own market intelligence.

SQ really wanted a larger version of the 777-9, one that doesn’t exist: the 777-10. This concept is a 450-passenger airplane, compared with the 777-9’s 407-425 passengers, each in standard three-class configuration.

Against this desire, Airbus could only offer its own “paper” airplane, also one that does not exist: the A350-2000 (or 1100 or 8000, depending on what name was used at any given time). This is a 400-passenger concept (vs the A350-1000’s 365 passengers) intended to give Airbus a plane on a par with the 777-9, which currently is a sole-contender in the 400-425 seat sector.

Airbus doesn’t have a conceptual airplane in the 450-seat size—the A380 is it. Although the A380 is best used with 600 or more seats, some airlines today have far fewer than 500 seats.

This, of course, disadvantages the seat-mile economics of the A380. We’ll come back to this in a moment.

The prospective 777-10 would have better seat mile economics, but operating economics with the 777-9’s engines wouldn’t be significantly improved. But there are no engine advancements today to improve on the GE9X that will power the 777-9 to provide better operating economics.

Significantly, Bloomberg News reported that the Boeing deal includes the ability to switch the order to a Boeing model that isn’t in the market yet. This is an oblique reference, but clear to those of us who had knowledge of the behind-the-scenes discussions, to the 777-10

Knocking out the A380

Airbus A380. Photo via Google images.

The 777-9 puts pressure on the A380. Its seat-mile economics are virtually the same as the larger airplane, without the risk of needing to fill the additional seats.

But the 777-9 is not the A380 killer some contend it is. The true risk to the A380 is the 777-10. This model is what Boeing believes will be the A380 killer, not the 777-9.

The challenge for Boeing is whether a market exists for a 450-passenger 777-10. GE Aviation faces the same challenge in deciding whether to develop an even more fuel-efficient engine than then GE9X to power the -10.

Boeing itself doesn’t help make this case.

It’s been denigrating the Very Large Aircraft (VLA) market size for years, ever since the launch of the 787, in its war of words vs Airbus’ forecast for the VLA sector.

Ever since Airbus launched the A380 in 2000, its 20-year forecast remained between 1,200-1,700 aircraft (including freighters). It figured it would capture half this market. (A lawsuit between Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney revealed Airbus forecast a lifetime sales of 650 A380s.)

Seventeen years later, Airbus has sold fewer than 320 A380s and many of these orders are so soft—and some indefinitely deferred—as to be effectively canceled. Yet Airbus stubbornly sticks to a 20-year forecast of some 1,200 or more VLAs.

Boeing consistently reduced the number of VLAs in its forecast. Today, it’s 20-year forecast is slightly more than 500, including freighters.

This doesn’t leave much room for a business case for a 777-10.

(Despite the 777-9 nominally carrying 407-425 passengers in three class, above the 400-seat threshold for VLA, Boeing insists the 777-9 falls in the large, medium-twin aisle sector, not the VLA. The logic continues to escape us.)

Hedging its bets

Singapore hedged its bets: order the 777-9, for which a design is defined, against a paper airplane (the A350-2000) that hasn’t been launched, and maintain an option to up-gauge to the non-existent 777-10 should Boeing decide to proceed. And, oh, by the way, get a good deal on some more 787-10s to supplement those already ordered by SQ.

Airbus’ indecision on whether the launch the A350-2000 almost certainly didn’t help its case.

The A380 future

What is the future of the A380?

It’s tenuous, but it seems assured at least through 2023 following a recent decision to reduce production to 12/yr.

Click on image to enlarge for a crisp view.

Note: LNC excludes all the “iffy” orders from this schedule, except those from Amedeo which appears to be on a path to be a financing source for Emirates Airline. If Amedeo is excluded, the backlog goes to 2022.

By the turn of the decade, Airbus really must decide whether to invest in proceeding with the A380neo. Today’s engines, including those on the A350—the assumed choice for an A380neo—by the mid-2020 decade will be approaching a 20-year old design. The 787 engines will be slightly older. Like the 777-10, an A380neo needs something that can really provide substantial operating economic advantages.

Airbus hopes that by the mid-2020 decade, airport congestion really will reach the point where A380s are needed. This has been the basic case for the A380 all along—but the proliferation of the 787, A350 and significantly improved range for the A330—undermined much of the business case for the A380.

Even if Airbus is finally proved right about airport congestion, by 2025 the A380 design will be 25 years old and the EIS approaching 20 years. As history showed with the Boeing 747, and the 777, 20-year old technology won’t cut it.

Airbus must proceed with an A380neo for this airplane to have a future—with or without a 777-10 nipping at its market sector. With the 777-10, Airbus faces a death knell for the A380. But it’s not the 777-9 as some suggest.

92 Comments on “Singapore 777-9 order pressures, but does not kill A380

  1. Thanks for all that. As usual LNC goes the further mile and adds more info above which is generally available.
    Im thinking a few Boeing customers are also waiting for a 777-10. Qantas, JAL United etc.

    • But wouldnt there be an option to convert orders to the 777-10?

      Anyway its a no-brainer. The 777-9X is the ideal super twin for high capacity long haul in for next 2 decades. The A380 economics won’t compare and a hypothetical A350-8000 wouldn’t march its range / pax / economics either.

      I wouldn’t bet on NEO advance engined variant either.

      • I would bet the Advance version was already skipped with reduced production rate to reach Ultra engine EIS.

        Here a rather old (2014) analysis by Leeham news:
        The economic difference between a 777-9 and an A380 with 11 abreast seating is not that big.

        Look at the current seating capacities at Singapore Airlines (SQ):
        777-300: 275 seats (264 to 284)
        A380: 420 seats (379 up to 471)
        Roughly 50 % more seats for A380 vs. 777-300.
        That is about the seating increase from A320 to A330.
        Airbus can make up the difference with the price like A330neo vs. 787.
        Keep in mind that the A80 is not 50 % more expensive than the 777-9.

        “Anyway its a no-brainer.” Like the 747-8?

      • The A380 is already on its way out, Singapore is not replacing its A380’s and Malaysia is also doing the same, so to me that’s the beginning of the end. As for the 777-10x, well there is a rumble that the ME Airlines are facing a monetary squeeze; customer numbers are not increasing as first thought,so the contention of which 777x Airlines should buy,I would go for the 777-9x.
        The rest is pie in the sky until pax numbers reach the numbers required,the price of oil goes up and whether there is any money left after the recent huge spend by airlines.

    • Again the 787 experience rears its ugly head as Boeing will progress the wide body end of its airplane line-up by going one step at a time. The 777-X9 will have to prove out in the market place as a first delivery winner. Then comes the 777-X10 announcement soon after. It is best to say the A-380 has a serious erosion problem in the market place and will fall under its own weight when Airbus announces a plus 400 seat aircraft thus dooming the A-380 with Airbus customers. The 777X program is pointing the way for Airbus.

    • One thing which the author fails to mention is that the 777-8 is also soft. Of the 777-8/9’s combined 300-something orders to date. Only 1/6 are for the 777-8. Given that -8 will trail the -9 by 2~3 years and not much has been done to date. One can argue that the -8 is at least as bad a financial decision as the -10 even if demand for VLA is limited.

      Boeing can very well ditch the -8 in favor of a -10, just like Airbus ditched the A350-800 for the -1000. They probably wouldn’t more than half the customers who signed up for the -8 has most of these will convert to the -9 albeit a little begrudgingly. The new 777 has a lot of wing… way more than the -8 needs and one can argue more than the -9 really needs. A -10 with the -9’s range can be had mostly with a gross weight bump and uprating the GE9X back up to the GE90-115B thrust levels or a tad beyond. The -9 can easily hit the -8’s promise of extra range — again with a IGW exercise and a thrust bump.

      Boeing is not doing so mainly because it wants the 777-8 to pressure the A350 and because they have their own 777-8i to try to salvage. But if it is not working by now it is unlikely to every work, so they may decide to simply swap -8 development for -10.

  2. The Engine for the A380neo is the RR Advance, the Trent XBW weights too much. The A380 needs similar updates as the 777-9 vs the 777-300ER, (new wings, engines, nacelle, wingbox, Al-Li fuselage material, landing gear, APU and a stretch) easily costing $10bn to develop and certify. Airbus might want to do the A350-2000 first and not go for the quick and dirty fuselage stretch and need to fit a new latest and greatest wing and a version of the RR Advance with new nacelle to beat Boeing. SQ and Udvar can tell what will tip the scale in Airbus favour.

  3. Great article. 2023 is ripe for RR Advance. RR need to do it to get back into the narrowbody and middle of the market sector. Perhaps a half way house is possible, the Trent architecture with a CFRP fan and casing, an upgraded compressor, an upgraded turbine and a new combustor. They are virtually doing it by using donor Trent 1000 and Trent XWB to test the Advance architecture anyway.

  4. The 777-10 would be a 3 row stretch of the 777-9.

    In an apples to apples comparison 777-10 abreast, A380 11 abreast and both with bars, big premium cabins, the capacity difference between the two is very significant. It’s the raw square meters of the upperdeck.

    Lets get away from brochure numbers. Singapore put 264 seats in its 777-300ER fleet today.

    The -9 will be 2.6m longer. 2-3 rows theoretically, (depends on lav, galley, capacity too) plus ~20 seats if they downgrade economy a bit to 10 abreast. Add an extra lavatory, some galley space and we end up with a 35-40 extra seats.

    So 305-310 seats on the new SQ 777-9. Nothing like “typical -9’s 407-425 passengers. About 100 less.

    Luckily SQ has A380s too for comaprison. Versions have 329 379 and 441 and 471 seat. All with relative large F cabin, full deck business class, bar etc. and generous 10 abreast economy. If 10 abreast is acceptable for 777X, 11 abreast will become reality for the A380 maindeck. Adding about 30 seats. So we’ll probably end up with 360-500 seats About 30-40% ~ 120-130 seats more than the 777-9s.

    One can ask the question if capacity is really that important for an airline making fleet choice. Well, Yes. Capacity is the overridingly important variable in network planning. Specially long haul. You don’t just double capacity with something smaller. It’s prohibitively expensive and complex.

    So the 777-9 competes with the A380-800 like the A319 competes with the 737-9. The 7878/-9 competes with the A350-1000. Yes they can fly the same routes, but it’s not really a 1-1 replacement.

    • Hey Keesje:

      Another announced 777-9 order and no A350-1000 or -1100 order announced? Does Boeing have more 777-9 orders than the A350-1000? You’ve said the program is a joke, so is it time to call it a good business decsion for Boeing to offer it now? We know the 777-300ER replacement market will be hot in 15-20 years, is that when we’ll expect to see the jump in A350-1000 sales or will the market have moved up to the 777-10 space?

      • The 777-9 has some definite advantages over the A350-1000 in terms of wing and engine size, but the A350-1000 may still outsell it. A320/A321, 738/739, A359/A3510, lots of upgauges are a given.

      • @Vincent

        The A350-1000 forced Boeing to do something as the 777-300ER couldn’t compete. That Boeing decided to spend at least $10 billion on a way to heavy airframe, and not on an all new large composite twin, is anyone’s guess. The 777X orderbook may look OK today, but if Airbus would choose to develop a superior all composite competitor with an EIS in, say, 2025, I’m afraid that the risk for Boeing could be a severely curtailed 777X production run. In contrast to Airbus and the A345/A346 — that shared much of the production infrastructure with the A330 — Boeing has no such freedom with the 777X.

        Meanwhile, the A350-1000 still has more customers than the 777-8/-9, and quite a few current A350-900 customers could quite easily upgrade to the A350-1000 — similar to how quite a few current A320 customers are upgrading to the A321.

        Also, it may look as if the 777-9 only competitive with the A350-1000 on a fuel burn per seat basis because it will be using an engine that is projected to have a 5 percent lower TSFC. Reverse that by a 5 percent lower TSFC for an all new RR engine entering into service on a larger Airbus twin in, say, 2025, — an engine that could also be mounted on a re-engined A350-1000 — and you’d not have a a very pleasent situation for Boeing, going forward.

        • @OV-099,

          What you’re saying to Vincent has happened before. In prior times, the cost of the A340-600 was said to be very low compared to that of the 777-300ER. That was BS, given that the A340-600 was a stretch, had a chord extension and wingtip growth, while the -300 carried the stretch for the -300ER and development for that 777 was limited to the engine, structural strengthening, software, winglets and some novel features, such as the semi-levered gear. The basic family commonality of the A330/A340 did not help the A340-600 much, as the -600 has indeed broken commonality in same ways, and in others, commonality lead to a constrained design. If you say the 777 has no such advantages, the answer to that is that the -300ER’s 800-plus sales have truly solved the 777 program finances. And by 2025, sufficient time will have passed for a cleansheet Boeing. In the meantime, the -1000 is constrained by design commonality to the -900, and so will be the proposed -2000, more so.

          The idea that Airbus will launch a cleansheet design larger than the A350-1000 without serious consequence for current jets in its portfolio is wishful thinking for two reasons. These reasons can be stated simply as A350-1000 and A380-800/-800NEO. Still, the A380 will be getting long in the tooth by then, so upgrade it or launch that cleansheet? Or both?

          In any event, the 777-9 will have dominated its market segment for a period of time such to entrench that dominance as the -300ER did, and as the 747-400 did before it, and so on to the beginning of the basic 400 seat market.

          Of course, we really have to wait and see how the A350-1000 and 777-9 perform in their spaces. For the A350-1000, it’s in what was the 777-300ER’s space. So payload-range potential – will it do more than the -300ER? We’ll have to wait and see what the airlines do with it. The -1000 will definitely be more efficient than the -300ER, coming some 13 years later. For the 777-9, the only real question is that regarding how much has Boeing learned from its 787 wing making. That Mitsubishi made. In Japan. And then follow-on questions about gestation (ease of.) and how much more efficient per seat this airplane is than 787-10 and A350-1000.

          While looking at the engines, we need to realize the potential for improvement over the time. The GE90-115B’s coming out of Ohio are better today than those in 2002.


          The A380 era hasn’t broken Boeing’s strong widebody market performance. Perhaps the A350 will. Time will tell.

          • @Paulo M

            Apologies for the long post… 🙂

            What I was saying to Vincent was that when the A345/A346 tanked, Airbus had the A330 to fall back on. If the 777X tanks some 5 years after EIS, Boeing has nothing to fall back on in terms of 777 manufacturing. That’s a massive difference.

            Now, the A345/A346 still shared some 50 percent parts and system commonality with the A330-200/-300 and A340-200/-300. Airbus was even able to use the A345/A346 wing jigs – slightly modified – for the manufacturing of the wing box on the A330 when the A345/A346 was discontinued. Although the parts and system thus “only” had some 50 percent commonality, both programmes were essentially using the same production infrastructure. Hence, the “cost issue” (i.e. sunk costs) was only really relevant for the A345/A346 R&D, and not for the manufacturing itself.

            As for costs, the original 777-200 programme (engines not included) reportedly cost around $12 billion (in then-year dollars); or about $19 billion in today’s dollar value. In contrast, the original A330/A340 programme (engines not included) cost around $3.5 billion (in then-year dollars); or about $6 billion in today’s dollar value. The A345/A346 programme (engines included) reportedly cost some $3.5 billion (in then-year dollars); or about $5 billion in today’s dollar value. The GE90-115B engine reportedly cost at least one billion dollars to develop (in then-year dollars); or some $1.5 billion in today’s dollar value – and assuming that the 77L/77W cost another billion dollars-plus to develop – one should be able to deduce that the A333/A343/A345/A346 (A332/A332F not included) cost around $11 billion in today’s dollar value (i.e. A345/A346 engines included in cost estimate), while the 772/77L/77W (773,77F not included) cost around $22 billion in today’s dollar value. So, however one wants to bend reality, the fact of the matter is that the entire 777 “classics” programme (777X not included) cost about twice as much as the A330/A340 programme (A330neo not included) – and now, Boeing is spending $10 billion-plus on the 777X, while Airbus is spending just a fraction on the A330neo; or $32 billion-plus for the entire 777 programme vs. some $13 billion for the entire A330/A340 programme ( in today’s dollar value).

            As for the A350-1000 vs. the 777-9; it’s typical for quite a few industry observers to gloss over the fact that Airbus and Boeing are involved in a strategic chess game that require lots of strategy, calculations and long term thinking.

            The A350 was optimised around the A350-900 for obvious reasons (i.e. 300 seat-plus market segment – the biggest WB market segment). Now, in order to permanently “take out” the 777-300ER, Airbus couldn’t just stretch the aircraft and not increase MTOW, which BTW is what Boeing is doing with the 787-10 with respect to the 787-9. Although the 777-300ER is seemingly too big for quite a few operators – many of which ordered it because the 777-300ER was much superior to the 777-200ER despite the 10 percent higher trip fuel burn – there has been no real competitive alternative to the 77W in the long range 300 seat-plus segment between April, 2004 (77W EIS) and December, 2014 (A359 EIS). Thus, the 77W sales drought seems to have begun when the A350-900 entered into service, since for many A359/77W operators, the A359 is eminently more suitable for a number of route sector in terms of aircraft size, while being massively cheaper to operate on a per trip basis. However, the A350-900 is obviously not big enough vs. the 77W with respect to payload/range. Hence, an A350-1000 was required.

            So, how did all this play out with respect to strategy?

            First, after a few false starts, Airbus decided to counter both the 787-9 and partly the 777-300ER with the A350-900; an aircraft that was designed to compete in the 777-200ER and the A340-300/-600 replacement market, in addition to cater to the growth in the 300 seat-plus market segment. The A330 was left to fend for itself

            2nd, in order to permanently “take out” the 777-300ER, Airbus had to develop a stretched A350-1000 with a significantly higher MTOW, requiring larger 6-wheel MLG bogies and flap extension (etc). Even at 10 abreast, the 777-300ER would not be competitive post EIS of the A350-1000. It’s important to note, though, that in the long run – as new engines will be coming online (i.e. >10 percent more efficient than the TXWB engine) – a better A350-1000 would likely be based directly on the 8100 nm capable, 280 metric tonne A359. Since a re-engined 280 tonne “standard” A359 would have a range upwards of 9000 nm (NB: I’m not talking about the “ULR” version), a 280 tonne A350-1000 (i.e. A350-800?) should have a range comparable to the current A359. The current A350-1000 could morph into a larger 400-seat, A360X family that would have a larger 77X-type wing, while retaining the 6-wheel MLG (etc.) from the A350-1000. In short, it’s true that the A350-1000 was “constrained” by design commonality with the A350-900, but it was a necessary step — and a relatively cheap one in order to force Boeing’s hand. However, one should keep in mind that the wing on the A350-1000 is far less compromised than the wing on the 777-300ER – an “under-winged” creature with too high a wing-loading. Now, if Airbus would have optimized the A350 around the A350-1000 they would have prematurely had to have gone for a larger wing using folding wing tips. Instead, Airbus can now watch how the 777X folding wing tip works out, and then, implement their patented “self-deploying” downward folding wing tip design on their next all new composite wing.

            3rd, Boeing had to do something to respond to the A350-1000. The success of the 777-300ER from 2004, and onwards, seemed early on to have helped to breed a dangerous sense of complacency in Seattle. When Boeing launched the 787, all the talk in town was that the eventual 77W replacement aircraft was going to be all composite – just like the 787. When the 787 was going off the rails, however, all the talk about a Y1 (all composite 737NG replacement) and Y3 (all composite 77W replacement) subsided – and shortly after Airbus had launched the A320neo a couple of years later, Boeing was forced to scramble together a response when American Airlines were about to order a chunk of A32Xceo/A32Xneo aircraft. So much for Boeing’s long term strategic planning.

            4th, with an offensive strategy thrown out, Boeing decided, unsurprisingly, that they would rather improve upon their existing product portfolio. What Boeing’s management IMJ failed to do with the MAX, was to not ask themselves how the dash-9 would measure up in the longer term vs. the A321neo and how the single aisle market would play out (i.e. increasing demand for larger single aisle aircraft). With respect to the 77W and its replacement aircraft, Boeing’s management IMO seems to have failed to grasp that the long term Airbus strategy, apparently, is to be present in every current and future market segments (i.e. 150 to 1000 seats-plus – yes, 1000 seats!). In short, Boeing’s management has IMJ failed to foresee that the market segment between the 777-9 and current A388 will, in all likelihood, be filled with 400-seat to 500-seat-plus Airbus offerings, while the A380, or a twin engine A380 derivative aircraft would be designed for the above 600-seat market segment. It’s perhaps true that with the A380, one could argue that Airbus prematurely entered the VLA segment, but assuming that Airbus will not massively improve upon the A380 in the long term – including an upgrade with a full composite fuselage — is IMJ ludicrous.

            5th, With their failure to foresee Airbus’ next probable move post the EIS of the 777-9, Boeing’s management has IMJ lulled themselves into believing that the heavy 777 aluminum fuselage will be enough to counter a larger Airbus competitor, using a full composite fuselage, that could be coming online half a decade after the EIS of the 777-9. What is clear, though, is that the bigger the aircraft, the greater the advantages attributed to composite materials become, which is why Airbus, in all likelihood, will also design the follow-on to the A388 using A350-style large composite panels in the fuselage primary structure (while retaining most of the current internal systems etc.). In fact, the A380 fuselage can be looked upon as an aluminium version of the A350 composite fuselage. Hence, the A380 metallic cockpit section (Section-11) – similar in design to the A350 metallic cockpit section – and existing composite empennage (Section-19), would be retained. Therefore, it doesn’t make any sense for Airbus to launch a stretched A388 version (with a likely limited production run), using the existing metallic fuselage. In fact, if Airbus were to launch concurrently both a 430-seat to 500-seat, double-decker derivative of the A350 — similar in scope to Keesje’s “Ecoliner” — and an A380-derived composite twin family; then, the large composite fuselage panels for both aircraft could use much of the same production infrastructure (e.g. same autoclaves etc.).

            6th, and finally; with an apparent glut in the wide-body market place, there’s no point for Airbus at this time to move forward with a new wide-body programme and a major A380 update, or A380 derived twin. However, by the end of the decade, or early 2020s, the time might be ripe for both a launch of an A380-derived composite twin and an A350-derived Keesje-type “Ecoliner”. 😉

    • I’m hoping for a rejection of 9x 787 and 10x 777 seating. The A330 will become a stalking horse for comfort as more people find out, which helps highlight the A380s much wider seats as a better product.

      • 8 abreast is a saccharine sweet spot. If Boeing don’t go for it, it won’t be long before Airbus starts to look at replacing the 330 neo.Its a bit awkward for Boeing because the 787 is a sort of 8.5

      • the airlines won’t reject it because it makes them more money, 97%+ of coach airline passengers have no idea what kind of plane they are flying on and just go for the cheapest possible ticket that goes where they want when they want. they will even add 3 hours each way to their flight to save $20.

        the best you can hope for is more tiered seating options with sardine can class, loosely packed sardine can class, business consultant class and ostentatiously wealthy guys class.

        • Flew MAD-BOG last night on an AirEuropa 788, thats the cheap end of the market and the aircraft was at least 50% empty. Seems to make a lie of the cheap at any price arguement.

    • Singapore are looking to grow their LCC Scoot off-shoot. They are standardised on 787 and 777 10 wide seating and have old 777s to replace sometime. As such 777-9 is right on target for Scoot and will complement the 787-10 perfectly. I don’t think this order is for SQ, no point setting up your legacy airline to compete with an LCC, esp if you own an LCC, you just erode your own margine.

  5. Delivery dates may also be a factor in the sale to SIA. Airbus can’t deliver any A350 until 2023, that is 4 years after the 787-10 and two years after the 777-9 delivery schedule. Even 2023 may not be possible if other airlines exercise their A350 options

  6. RR says that the Ultrafan “could” be ready by 2025, not that it “will” be ready. First of all they need to get the Advance going, with its different distribution of compression between stages and an all new CFRP fan. No doubt Airbus would very much like to mount Ultrafans, but if the timeline moves towards 2030 they might instead go for the Advance. But of course the 4 Advance engines would have to offer at least the same fuel efficiency as a pair of GE9X – which will certainly be a very close race.
    So maybe Airbus will launch the A380neo when RR has a green light for the Advance, maybe in only 2 years time, maybe early next decade. And maybe Airbus still waits for the Ultrafan – who knows.

    • I agree woth the conclusions of the article but I would go further and predict that by 2035 there will be more A330 NEOs in the sky than A380’s. The A380 program will be terminted in the next decade if not sooner imo.

  7. I thought, Airbus really just waits for the RR Advance to be relyable enough to be deployed on a broad basis.

    Besides, what else do they have in the pipeline? After 330neo, 321neoLR and the 350-1000, which should all be out and EIS by 2018, just the 320 1/2, 350-2000 and 380 neo come to my mind.

    320 1/2, 350-2000 can wait till the 320 backlog is reduced and experience has been collected on 350-1000/backlog reduced on 350, so clearly the 380neo should then be top on the agenda.

    I wondered though, and please tell me, if you have info on this:
    Can the 380-wing be modified at reasonable costs to feature a winglet without exceeding 80m wingspan?

    Would you rather bet on a minimum change 380-800 neo (pobably even with the same wings as today) or would they go for a 79m long 380-900 that would beat everything in terms of seat/mile costs and have a simelar range than today’s 380-800 – perhaps combined with an ULR -800 version?

    • If we take the A320neo and the A330neo for a blueprint I should say Airbus will do only the absolute necessary changes. I should think they will keep the body and wing and implement only some weight savings (more CFRP panels, doorframes etc.) and wing extensions (which might be foldable or not).

    • According to RR the Advance should “be ready for service from the end of this decade.”
      The Ultra uses “geared design with a variable pitch system” and “could be ready for service from 2025”.
      In other words Airbus already skipped the neoAdvance. By selling about 36 more A380 and Airbus could go directly for the Ultra. Maybe rather simple. “You want the neoUltra? You need also several ceos.”

      • To get the Advance “ready for service by the end of this decade” would require specifications on thrust and size. As there is no other plane waiting for an engine like this it would mean that RR is already developing the Advance for the A380 and together with Airbus they are just keeping this a secret.
        Or is there any other explanation that I don’t see?
        On the other hand, the Ultrafan is far away from becomming a reality. If I were in RR shoes I would first of all make a smaller engine with a gear and collect knowledge and experience before going big. Maybe the Ultrafan is a chance to RR to get back to the medium size engines for single-aisles.

        • I guess the Advance was thought for the original A380neo with an EIS around 2020. That development was canceled by Emirates due to low oil prices.

          The Advance with EIS around 2020 is to early for an A350neo and an A330neoII. First aircraft with an Ultra engine could be a 787MAX and then Airbus will follow with either A380, A350 or A330. That could be a problem for the 777X – no GE9X GTF.

          Some may say it will be to soon for an A350neo or A330neoII. That depends only on oil prices. Higher oil price and the manufacturer can demand far more money for the aircraft.

    • Airbus most likely needs lots of engineers for cost reduction work on A350, A380, A400M besides deciding what to do when Boeing launches the widebody 7M7 next year. It is likely to have LD3 cargo hold and all carbon wing, tail section and wingbox in addition to a Al-Li frame and filled with 787 systems&boxes. The A330neo will be a bit old and heavy. Airbus must decide if an A322 or a Super light weight 4500nm A330neo is the right response with a new RR Engine most likely a new LP/IP system on a Trent7000 similar to when they designed the RB211-535E4 or a PW1140G option if PWA allowed to bid this time.

      • Not so fast.

        As Boeing copes with the challenges of cutting production in Everett and raising it in Renton, it must also worry about its future competitive position against Airbus, Aboulafia said.

        He said Boeing will likely have to develop a new “middle-of-the-market” (MOM) twin-aisle jet — sized between the largest 737 and the smallest 787 — and also develop a larger 737, the MAX 10, to stall the runaway sales of the Airbus A321neo.

        The problem is, Boeing won’t have the money to pour into a MOM development project until early next decade, Aboulafia said. All of Boeing’s research and development money is already earmarked through 2019 for its 737 MAX, 787-10 and 777X projects.

        In contrast, he said, Airbus is free of all major development spending from 2018 on, and may well choose to move ahead of Boeing with a MOM development project.

        Also holding Boeing back from new airplane development is the $27 billion overhang it still has in deferred production costs from its last new airplane project, the 787 Dreamliner.

        In the aftermath of this major money-losing effort, Aboulafia suggested Boeing corporate in Chicago could be “gun-shy about doing something all-new and potentially loss-making.”

        • good point, Mr OV 099 (btw wasn t that the Cahllenger?), and besides, it seems to me, the 777-9x comes close to developing a new plane rather than just a variant of an existign one.

          I would even go as far as saying that a widebody M7M, even if it is only a 2-2-2 configuration will fail against a prolonged 3-3 plane, if not for the naturally inevitably higher fuel consumption, but also simply because you won t get a premium high enough vis-a-vis a single isle to pay back development costs. So, yes a two aisl middel-of-market plane is a money-burner.

          Airbus, however does not have any reason to do anything in this field until Boeing does, because at this moment they are the ones best “covering” that area withthe biggest available singel aisle and the smallest viable shorter range twin aisle. Evenit Boeing launches a 2 aisle M7M, i would assume that a prolonged 321, keeping the fuselage diameter, prolonging it and setting it on band new wings, would be simelar in capacity and a lot cheaper and thus make the M7M a financial disaster.

          • @ChrisAustria

            Yes, my favourite orbiter. 🙂

            Airbus MOM options: A re-winged A321 and a re-winged A310 using A330neo fuselage. 😉

          • @OV-099
            My favorite Airbus MOM: A350 barrel with an A310 sized wing.
            Why waste a new wing on an old barrel like 777X?

          • If/when Boeing does build the NMA, it clearly will not be 2-2-2. Just look at the 10-abreast 777, 9-abreast 787, and 6-abreast 737. Obviously the NMA would have a 2-4-2 layout crammed into something barely wider than the 767 fuselage.

        • What about the aftermath of the major money-losing A380 effort? Aboulafia says the last one will be delivered in 2019.

          • “Aboulafia says the last one will be delivered in 2019.”

            Are you willing to bet on that?

    • You have hit on an important point to my view. Airbus arent just going to lay down and stop their whole R+D operation. If nothing else it cost too much to sart up. What will they do?

  8. And RR posted a massive 5bn loss,
    What future plans will they have to shelve or will the uk government wade in with another huge bail out?

    • Rolls Royce’s Record Corporate Loss Isn’t Actually A Loss, It’s An Accounting Charge

      Rolls Royce has today announced one of the largest losses in British corporate history – £4.6 billion, call that $7 billion among friends or a whole lotta money. However, it’s not actually a loss at all, it’s an accounting charge. There is something of a loss in there, the fines they’ve had to pay for being involved in bribery and corruption, but by far the majority if this “loss” is in fact just a change in the exchange rate being recognised in one part of the company’s accounts but the other side of that change in exchange rates not being recognised in those same accounts.

  9. Hi Scott
    Never mind the A380; what does this order mean for the A350-1000? Orders have stalled, United might downgague to the -900, and SIA, being a major A350 customer, would have been a prime candidate for a decent number of -1000s.
    Going forward this leaves Airbus with just one solid widebody (A350-900)?

    • I don’t know how many A350-900 orders by SIA could be swapped to a bigger model. In my opinion A350-900 and 787-10 offer about the same seating capacity but the Airbus offers more range not always required. A350-1000 and 777-9 are also close on seating capacity but the Boeing offers more range.

      Ratio of A350-900 to A350-1000 is about 3:1. For Max8 to Max9 about 5:1.

      I guess there is an unspoken agreement of the two big not to built an aircraft with exactly the same parameters like the other one. So each aircraft will always have a nice niche to sell. The 100+ seat market will be hell in a few years. No orders A319neo and 60 for MAX7.

  10. I could have sworn someone has repeatedly said the 77x was too heavy to compete with the A350-1000 model and SQ would be going that route, and that 787-10 didn’t have the needed range to compete for Asian carriers.

  11. Boeing’s chief cheerleader — Saj Ahmad, who is the “chief analyst” at the one-man company StrategicAero Research — seems to have been pretty active lately.

    777X Driving Early A380 Demise…And Airbus Cannot Stop It

    •Airbus Cancelled A380neo – No Engine Exists For It

    •A350 Stretch Unlikely Either – No Engine Exists For It

    •777X Performance Kills A380 Viability

    •Singapore Airlines 777X Deal Will Trigger More A380 Isolation

    Last week’s big deal for 777-9s at Singapore Airlines will almost certainly force players in Asia using the A380 to look again at whether the big Airbus quadjet is worth keeping. For all intents and purposes, the A380 program is dead anyway.

    With the A350-1000 being severely crippled both in terms of payload/range as well as engine growth capability versus the 777-9, Airbus cannot realistically launch a stretched variant, even if it wanted to because there simply isn’t a propulsion unit available for it. Singapore Airlines’ snub of this paper airplane couldn’t be more clear.

    The A380 is dead, even if Airbus won’t admit to it. It is the second major European aerospace disaster of epic proportions after Concorde – only this time, the financial implications are far larger.

    Orders are not coming in and the ones in the backlog, save for Emirates, are dead – especially from pseudo-players like Amedeo. Even United Airlines is poised to terminate its orders for the A350-1000, denting that struggling jet’s appeal even further.

    Airbus, the A380 and A350-1000 are all in big trouble in the widebody segment. And not for the first time either.

    I would be worried for the future of Boeing if Saj’s rants are not just one man’s twisted take on all things Airbus, but if he’s essentially parroting what he’s hearing from inside the company (i.e. a corporate culture of complacency; a world of “alternative facts”, etc.). Boeing has consistently underestimated Airbus — and next year. Airbus will be free from all major R&D spending…..

    • Paper plane? The A350-1000 is flying! You wait and see. People forgot how the -900 all of sudden had underutilized fuel capacity, and now at 280mtow has 8100 nm of range. I’m sure Airbus has not shown all its cards with the A350 yet, and certainly not with-1000. What remains true is that 777-9 is better for one to one replacement for the 747, of which most premium Asian and European airlines owned many. So many 777-9’s will be sold for sure.

      The A350-1000 is not in trouble, it will have its own niche with probably many surprises to come. There are more 777-200’s and 300’s to be replaced than 747’s. Most airlines will not grow from 777-200/300 to 777-9/10. The A350-1000 ultimately will remain in the sweet “business case” spot. Stretch it and neonized it and the 777 will become the awesome bigger but heavier and older plane.

    • Never heard of the guy. His headlines appear spot on, as much as I wish it were not true 🙁

      • “His headlines appear spot on, as much as I wish it were not true.”

        Yeah, right!

        With just 34 units in the backlog, Airbus has cancelled the A350-800 program. Airbus had been warned that the A350XWB family could not compete with both the 787 and 777 families and now the cold reality is that they are being forced into a knee-jerk panic reaction to launch a re-engined A330 that the market neither wants or needs.

        GE has refused to supply an all new engine for it, Pratt & Whitney has no engine to offer since it is dead in the widebody market while Rolls Royce isn’t exactly racing to be at the front of the queue either.

        Rolls Royce probably would not want exclusivity on the A330neo because the overlap it has with the A350-900 would mean lost sales on that jet – the A330neo is never going to be profitable, whereas the A350-900 has the potential to be a money-spinner.

        Airbus’ decision to axe the A350-800 means that there is no competitive offering against the 787-8 or 787-9.

        Launching the A330neo is reviving the A350-Mk 1 concept that was roundly ridiculed before Airbus decided to change the fuselage design too. This is a desperate move and one that will backfire.

        Unlike the 777X which has no competitor, the A330neo will arrive years late and by that time, the skies will have several hundred 787s in service as well as a fair share of A350-900s too. Why would any airline pick a re-engine 1980s airplane over the technologically superior 787?

        Airbus will launch the A330neo because that’s the only option it has – to not compete with the 787-8 or 787-9 is suicide. They need something in that trade space because by 2016, the A330 backlog will have evaporated.

        The A330-200 is already 25% less fuel efficient that the 787-8 today. The 787-9 that enters service in a few months is reckoned to have a similar, if not greater advantage versus the A330-300.

        The biggest drawback for re-engining the A330, as opined in prior notes, is the extensive wing, pylon, MLG and center wing box changes that will drive up work statement and program costs – costs that are never going to be recovered. Add in the additional weight that the airplane will absorb, even with new engines like the GEnx, the A330neo family will, according to our rough modelling, still be at least 15% less fuel efficient than any 787 variant. This does not include the higher operating costs either and lower revenue generating capability as the A330s have smaller cabin space.

        One thing is clear – Airbus’ widebody line up is screwed up because they were so insistent on developing the irrelevant A380.

        By 2016, all Airbus will have to offer is the A330-200/300neo, A350-900 and A350-1000 – a far cry from what Boeing has with the 787-8, 787-9, 787-10, (787-9 Freighter), 767F, 777F, 777-300ER, 777-8X, (777-8XF) and 777-9X.

        Airbus’ widebody market share in 2013 was a lowly 37% with 108 A330 and 25 A380 deliveries.

        A350-900 deliveries in 2015 will be ramping up slowly – it’s difficult to see Airbus handing over more than 45 units. Airbus will have to make a decision this year to cull A330 production rates to extend the backlog and transition to the A330neo. Current production rates on the A330 are wholly unsustainable, regardless of a re-engined variant.

        Even then, will airlines want to play ball on moving out production just so Airbus can stretch out production until an A330neo arrives? That is by no means assured at all.

        A330neo won’t enter service before 2019, by which time, continuous improvement in the 787 will widen the performance and cost differential in the 787s favour – particularly on the 787-9 and 787-10.

        So how will Airbus fill the void between 2016 and 2019?

        People are asking questions about how Boeing needs to fill 777 production gaps from 2017-2020, but the bigger risk is what Airbus faces with the A330 program.

        The 777 has no rivals. Boeing is formulating sensible 777-777X deals like we have seen with All Nippon Airways. The A330 is surrounded by better alternatives and is not the “go-to-airplane” any more.

        By 2016, Airbus’ widebody market share may well have plummeted to below 30%.

        The other critical element to the widebody market is the isolation of the A380 and the stagnant interest in the A350-1000.

        The A380 is dead. It works for Emirates and no one else. No one will re-engine this, no matter how hard Emirates pushes. Emirates is aware of this, hence its deal for 150 + 50 777-8X and 777-9X jets.

        Emirates craves fuel efficiency and high cycle robustness to support its business for the next 25 years. Sadly for Airbus, the A380 is not part of that future. Emirates is unlikely to fly any A380 for more than 15 years. 777s are a different beast altogether.

        The rapid selling start to the 777X means that while the A350-1000 is indeed good enough to go head-to-head with the current 777-300ER, without a new wing and engines, it will not provide the financial savings against the 777X pairing.

        Airbus’ A350XWB strategy has been torn apart – and before the first A350 has even entered service. For all Airbus’ crowing about how many hundreds of A330s it had sold during the devastating delays to the 787, Airbus and the A330 are staring down a barrel.

        Airlines will be acutely aware that the A330neo will decimate lease rates and values of current A330s. The 787 is already doing that today and an A330neo would compound that problem, especially to all the Asian-based airlines that have been ponying up other people’s money to get A330s for the pursuit of ill-conceived long haul ambitions (just ask Air AsiaX, Cebu and Philippine Airlines, the latter who cancelled 5 A330s this last week).

        Airbus’ biggest mistake was not to launch a re-engined A330 sooner while the 787 was in disarray.

        And now that it is being forced to launch it, rather than choosing to launch it, means that like the short-lived A340-500 and A340-600, the A330neo is a pointless exercise.

        The 787 has killed off the A330 and A330neo in the same way that the 777 killed off the A340.

  12. When is big too big? Airlines are cyclical businesses. The last few years have been good for many airlines, but go back beyond the few years and times were tough. Oil prices being low are the sole reason for profits and this factor can change rapidly. Quote “without the risk of needing to fill the additional seats.”
    When oil goes up and or a terrorist plot is carried out involving an airliner, then load factors will drop and the A380 is very limited on the routes it can be shifted to. Its also too expensive to park and the resale value of used frames has yet to be determined, all these issues point to demise of the plane.
    The Twins are the future.

  13. The RR-Ultrafan is the seemingly ‘designed for’ solution to thr a380s future BUT… if I were asked to spend money… I’d spend it on the a350 line, making it longer, shorter, lighter etc. etc. as it is THE air-frame that will take airbus into the next 20 years in the LA/VLA segment. it has all the tech already built in… it now needs the a330 treatment of lifelong improvements and customization to hit market needs.

    I’d love to see the a380neo, but it seems a virtual impossibility to make a profit unless airlines/alliances/joint-ventures start ‘sharing’ the aircraft to ensure they get those seats filled…. and start to put in more seats… like the 2-class emirates craft… or smaller firsts etc.

    The a320 still has legs and growth/re-winging if necessary… but will eventually need to counter any Boeing MOM reality [if ever].

    • Completely agree Fergal. Ultrafan will go to the A350 and future Airbus and possibly even Boeing aircraft. Route sharing for alliances still wouldn’t save the A380 I think but its an interesting use case. For me Advance is the only realistic option for the A380 and I dont see that happening either.
      Only politics can save the A380.

  14. If I remember correctly, the A380 was initially promoted as a 555 seater (easy to remember) in a typical three class arrangement. This is still 100 seats or almost 25% more than the 777-10 so you would think a 380neo with comparable engine technology would be competetive seatmile wise despite four engines.

  15. In about ten years the A380 has the potential for a slight stretch, 5m folding wingtips, and new engines. Looks like they can buy enough time to keep that option open.

    • Carbon technology will have moved ahead a long way by then.Even now a carbon A380 would be much lighter. The flying surfaces are all the wrong size unless you go for a stretch. I can’t see that much worth saving, it’s going to have to be completely rebuilt and I just can’t see Airbus risking that much money again.

  16. Emirates has no contract to take the Amedeo order. Also, 25 A380s are to be delivered between 2021-2026. It means 12 A380s should be delivered between 2024-2026 and not before 2023.
    The bottom line is that the A380 future depends on emirates to take 12/yr from 2020 when they have no contractual obligation of doing so. Life and death is in the hands of STC.

    • @x123

      “Life and Death”, eh?

      Is there any particular reasons as to why Airbus couldn’t follow Boeing’s lead with the 747-8 and reduce production output to, say, 6 per year in the early 2020s — or even shut down production for a year in, say, 2023/2024, while transitioning between the A388 and what comes next. For example, Boeing delivered no 747s in 2010 as they transitioned from the 744 to the 748.

      • Airbus is already losing money at 12/yr. I doubt economics will allow even lower rates.
        Why should Airbus follow the 748 path when Boeing lost billions on it?

          • I am not sure if you have ever taken an accounting class.

            Break-even after a huge accounting write-off has occurred does not mean the same as break-even in an economic sense.

            The French can take great pride in have built a very big airplane but it is a commercial failure no doubt.

          • But the write-off is done. It’s water under the bridge now. The question is whether they will lose money keeping the program going — and if they do, whether they will lose more that way, or lose more by shutting it down.

          • @Dwyer


            I said production break-even and not programme break-even.

  17. Forget about the A380 Program being cancelled any time soon. It won’t be. Airbus can afford the losses of the A380. For Airbus, the A380 is not just the Flagship of the enterprise, it is a statement. It says, “We are Bigger than Boeing…and we can make them Bigger than anything America can make!” When that Giant A380 flies through the skies, it says “Airbus #1” to everyone who sees it.

    Think about it: the a380 = Airbus #1. In your hearts, you know it. Everyone knows it. And that’s why so many Boeing Fanboyz want to see the A380 die.

    • “Pride comes before a fall”. The losses on the A380 will come out of money to develop new aircraft. Some airlines see the hand writing on the wall. Apart from EK, the A380 is a failure but Airbus will always put a positive spin on it, its what large corporations do.

      • Yeah…but the A380 is Bigger than anything Boeing has ever built. Therefore Airbus A380 = #1.

    • Jimmy I think you have laid out the original business case logic for the A380 very nicely. Well done.

    • I don’t think Boeing fans care at all that the A380 is the biggest. I think they get tired of Airbus “fanboyz” saying that Boeing “fanboyz” are upset that it is the biggest passenger plane or that it will crush everything before it.

  18. I think its just a matter of reality.

    The A380 works on certain routes for certain airlines and there is a sharp limit (SA and BA ben the two more or less normal examples)

    The MEs look to be in trouble as their model is in trouble and Emirates has gone only big in a mixed world.

    Trying to put the 777-X of any type into the same category as an A380 is silly at best.

    Pack em the same and the A-380 is a 750 seat aircraft vs a 450. The issue is there are few 750 pax routes (the Haj aside if any)

    When we nit pick between 30 and 50 seats, that is vast.

    So what we need is SVLA (small very large aircraftg) and LVLA (large verily large aircraft as oxymoronic as that is)

    Airbus is right to stretch the A380 program out as long as it can as is Boeing on the 747.

    Boeing just got a life extension with UPS order on the 747. At worst you loose a bit of money vs writing a whole lot off.

    If anything kills the A380 its gong to be its simply too big and not flexible enough.

    • As an addendum, the heavy fragmentation of the global airline market also works against the A380. This will surely change in the future and large global airlines will be able to incorporate an A380 efficiently, the question remains, however, if Airbus can keep production up until this happens.

  19. Scott – nice piece. It’s starting to look like my long-ago A380 forecasts are coming true – this brings me no joy actually. But my premise back then seems to be taking complete shape. Funny enough, I don’t even have a copy of that A380 memo but if memory serves my projections are dangerously close to reality. Troy

  20. In a very difficult environment for widebody airplanes, Boeing wins a massive order for 787-10 and 777-9 from one of the world’s premier and most business savvy airlines. That would seem to be the thrust of just about any article on the subject. But somehow that is contorted here into this is really all a silver lining for the A380. Strange in my humble opinion.

    • @Quinn: I don’t know how you can possibly characterize the post as a “silver lining” for the A380. It’s quite the bearish article.

      As for “Boeing wins a massive order for 787-10 and 777-9 from one of the world’s premier and most business savvy airlines. That would seem to be the thrust of just about any article on the subject,” you’re right–which is why LNC looks for other angles to examine. There are plenty of reports and promotional blogs that blow sunshine. But to say the 777-9 is the A380 is simply incorrect. The A380 is in trouble of its own accord. The 777-10, if Boeing does the airplane, will be the A380 killer.


      • Ok, my bad. I see where you are coming from now. I still disagree on one point though. The A380 is already dead. It doesn’t take the 777-9 or the 777-10.

      • The rumored A380 killer is just 4 extra rows of (economy) seats.

        They could get that by raising the floor of the A380 which would give 35-40 seats and still have wider seats than the 777.

        Boeings real problem that it has to kill off the 747 first before it proposes a 747-800 replacement. I have no doubt that Singapore will convert to the 777-10 when the time comes

        • @dukeofurl,

          The B748 program has practically ended. Its not a “real problem” as you put it.


          • The 747-8 can possibly go on as a freighter for a few more years.

          • Per dukeofurl , I don’t buy that a few more rows turns the 777-9 into a Killer.

            A 747 Killer yes (if it was not on its lips as a pax already)

            What is the core and hear of the A380 issues is that it was a prestige program not a unserved market program.

            While I know a lot of A380 aficionados will argue that, the fact is that its failed so fabulously proves just that.

            The next verbiage heard on a faille program is it was before its time. Check that. Its been in service for 12 years and the offering has been out for 17 years.

            When the timeline to its “time” keep moving out 10 years, you have a bust.

            That or it was the worst market research ever done in the history of mankind and that includes the Edsell !

            From the reality, you can fill it up at to a normal density (for its size) of 650-750 seats. Between competitor with aircraft going to the same destination and that need to fill that many seats, it fails (it also has to fill coming BACK)

            What it has become is a boutique offering that can make money on its very good economics in lower densities’.

            But that keeps flipping back to there are not that many routes that works on.

            Not enough routes and flump.

            So its stuck without the routes and in between on the pax count that if you raised it to 700 on paper it would blow anything out of the water on paper economics, but too many of those seats would be empty and fail the real world economics. .

          • @TransWorld

            The problem with the current A388 is that it’s not efficient enough vs. even the 777-300ER. Both the A388 and 77W have a similar fuel burn performance per available seat miles (ASM). Now, the A388 is still more efficient but the CASM delta in favour of the A388 is not big enough in order to force airlines not operating the A388 into buying the aircraft. With the A350-1000 and 777-9 coming online, that CASM delta in favour of the A388 is now all but gone. For example, the A388 has a trip fuel burn some 50- 60 percent higher than the 77W. In contrast, an A380-derived twin — a concept that I’ve outlined in earlier comments and in my response to Paulo M above — should have have a fuel burn reduction of as much as 40 percent; or, put differently, the next generation, fully optimised A380-derived twin would have a trip fuel burn in the same neighbourhood as the current 77W. The 79 metre version would have about 90 percent larger cabin floor area than the 77W. In a like for like configuration, therefore, the 79 metre A380-derived twin would have almost half the fuel burn performance per available seat miles (ASM) than that of the ASM of the 77W. Do you seriously believe that such a beast wouldn’t completely change the game?

            It never ceases to surprise how too many observers of this industry seem to be totally oblivious to the concept of external economies of scale — that is, if competing aircraft are compared using an apples-to-apples performance measurement. That would entail, for example, comparing single-deck WBs vs. double-deck WBs designed with the same level of airframe technology, same level of wing aspect ratio and same level of propulsion technology. If that were done, then the obvious main advantages of a double decker would become apparent; namely, the much lower fuselage wetted area per m2 cabin — assuming similar fuselage slenderness ratio values.

            Finally, it’s a typical mistake made by the A380’s detractors to assume that there is not a market for a VLA because of “all the seats”. On the contrary, if a double-decker VLA had a >30 percent lower CASM than the current single-deck WBs, then that VLA would blow the competition from the smaller single deck WBs out of the water. Most of the passenger flows on intercontinental trunk routes would be diverted towards the significantly more efficient VLAs. What the current A380 has accomplished, among other things, is that the aircraft has forced most major airports around the world having to make elaborate and costly preparations to accommodate VLAs. Hence, the stage is set for a massive industry disruption, a decade hence. 🙂

          • Well an A380 twin is not happening.

            Trip fuel cost is really irrelevant metric.

            What’s the cost to carry a passenger?

            The bottom line is if you carry more passengers the A380 jumps up in competitive lineup.

            If you can’t fill it, then its a space wasted and you should not build it.

            If you can only fill it two thirds, then you should build a 1/3 smaller aircraft and make it a twin.

          • @TransWorld

            “Well an A380 twin is not happening.”

            Increase fixed wing span to 84.75 m (from 79.75m) and overall wing span to about 95 m (including 2 x 5 m Airbus self-deploying patented folding wingtips**) — in order to dramatically reduce the induced drag that consequently would lead to a substantial reduction in the maximum thrust requirements at take-off — and put 2 x 175,000 lbf thrust Ultrafan-type engines and optimised pylons on the inboard engine mounts, and you’d get an A380 derived twin. However, you’re right that the A380-derived twin would not be an A380. The A380-derived twin be either an A370 or an A390.

            In order to preserve the current lift distribution of the wing, Airbus could base the self-deploying patented folding wingtips on the new active morphing winglets from FCC*:

            With its latest innovation, the “Active Morphing Winglet”, FACC has set winglet technology in motion. This new, actively controlled winglet from FACC adapts automatically to the respective flight conditions, thereby reducing fuel consumption even further and increasing flight safety. The innovation features a control flap that adjusts itself in real time to suit the current conditions. This also ensures optimal aerodynamics for the fuel-intensive take-off and landing procedures, as well as reducing noise and pollutant emissions. In cruising flight, the aircraft is further stabilized in crosswinds and squalls. A freely warping (morphing) gap covering covers the gap produced when the control flap emerges and ensures aerodynamically optimized geometries in every setting. This variability of the wing geometry compensates for the additional load caused by winglets in the central and outer wing structure, making structural reinforcement of the wing unnecessary when winglets are added. Control unit, sensors, and actuators are accommodated in the smallest of spaces. Integration of the gap covering in an airworthy design and implementation of a maximum oscillation rate of 60 Hertz without stalling represent a milestone in aeronautical design.


            ** Airbus self-deploying patented folding wingtips

            “Trip fuel cost is really irrelevant metric.”


            “What’s the cost to carry a passenger? ”

            CASM for this type of stretched A380-derived twin should be >25 percent less than the CASM on the A380-800 — a game changer.

  21. Nobody around here knows which aces Airbus has up their sleeves or how good the Advance will be. I’m sure they will launch the A380neo only when it offers significantly better seat mile cost than the 777X.
    Or maybe someone knows?

    • They already can, increase the seat count to 700 or so and the 777-X is toast.

      Filling those seats is another matter!

      Its not about the engine, its about the numbers.

      All a new engine would do is match the 777 with current seat count.

      But it won’t sell aircraft. They already have that niche filled.

    • It will only be ordered if the airlines want it. The mid east airlines have peaked and more twins are being sold than A380’s. The seat mile cost advantage only works when all or most of the seats are filled and if the seat yields remains high. Dumping seats will dilute the yields.
      “Too big to fail?”, I think not.

  22. The A380 is not a issue at all.

    Imo Airbus is preparing a bail out scenarion- how to end it best without getting beaten up at the stock market.
    Emirates is the main customer for about 50% of A380 and is in struggle.
    They ordered 150 B777x and cancelled A350.
    Why built them (and for them alone) a A380neo?
    And with a to heavy fuselage (looks like that’s the main A380 issue, to heavy).

    A321neo lr, A330neo, B787, A350 are all planes without huge capacity upgrades and trend to allow more point2point.

    Why continue a plane not needed by the market?
    If Airbus would plan to continue A380 line with a neo version, why would they let go Air France’s 2 orders, why would they let out Virgin for a A350 order, and you can bet Quantas can do the same.
    If they would really plan to launch A380neo, they would do everything to maintain this orders just to keep the line alive till 2025 when you can begin with A380neo production.

    Imo Airbus made a huge mistake with the A350. After going on with A330neo (old A350) there should have been a shift to 1000 as base model, allowing a close to 80m plane. A 67m, 74m and a 80m plane would be a pretty dangerous thread for anything Boeing could offer. A350 is 30t less than a B777.

    One may not forget, that Boeing gets its efficiency numbers just by stacking more seats in – a B787 is just more efficient when built with 9abreas in Y,
    same with a B777x with 10 abreast.
    Airbus offers in it’s 74m A350-1000 366 seats, while Boeing in it’s 76,5m B777-9x offering 406 – thats 40 more with just 2,5m longer.
    2,5m equals to max. 3 y rows, or 1y and 1C row- if that space is fully usable.
    So in fact, most of it should be the 1 seat more form 10abreast, making it much less comfortable for PAX.

    Imo Airbus should try to built a A350 as close to 80m as it can get without building new wing & doors.
    But the A350-1000 isn’t selling great, so why grow even bigger?
    Same with the B787-10, the -9 seems to be a pretty good fit for many Airlines.

    Overall: Airbus plans to drop A380.
    Should go with another stretch for A350.
    Boeing will have a hard time with a B777-10x.

    • I will remind you that I have not forgotten the seat count.

      It is the heart of it.

      The A380 is not too heavy (though it is heavy as it was intended to be a stretch. )

      Its very impressive that it can match up with a 777-300 with a much low seating density.

      It simply is not outfitted to carry enough passengers to match the 777.

      Back to you have to have passengers to fill those seats and they are not there.

      Ergo, it is ALL about seat count and the need to fill those seats day in day out BOTH ways.

    • No, Airbus does not plan to drop the A380.
      Yes, Airbus might go for a stretch of the A350, which is something we all know because it’s official.
      Nobody knows if Boeing will make a 777-10. But that is so far away and depending on so many factors that it makes no sense to discuss it today.
      The reason Airbus has not yet done the A380neo is that the only engine available would have been something like the Trent 7000 / XWB. They want to make a bigger step, and that is why they need the Advance or Ultrafan.
      From all I know there are lots of improvements (mostly weight reduction) already finished in development. I believe we can expect to see the NEO very shortly after the Advance is running.
      If you look back in history, the 747 was NOT a success until the -400 came to market, the fourth version. I expect that the second edition of the A380 will not only be a much better plane but will also be sold and build in much larger numbers.

      • B747 was a success before the B744, and the B744 didn’t had a competitor like the A380 has – there wasn’t a twin with a comparable range.

        The A380 is designed for the stretched -900 Version, but -800 is already to big. Why stretch it?
        That costs in weight. For me A380 is too big for most routes & airlines and to heavy to be so efficient that airlines have to buy.

        Slots are not that kind of factor Airbus thought, and Airlines tend to fly rather 2x B787 or B777 or comparable Airbus planes instead of one rotation with A380.

        You can calculate down weight per Pax or Payload, you’ll see A380 is to heavy.
        Talking about a geared fan – Airbus did once put it’s hope in it (remember A340 desaster) and failed, it doesn’t look like it’s going perfect with A320neo and P&W.

        To gamble again – not sure that’s a good idea.
        And what will happen when Boeing decides to upgrade B777x and B787 with new generation geared fan power plants between 2025-2030?

        For me best idea is to leave A380 behind, simply no market yet and ME3’s A380 kill out a lot of business from other carriers.

        Rather find some more thrust in the A350 engine, stretch it close to 80m and kill out B777x before it’s flying at all.

        Take the money save from A380 and ensure to maintain a 60-40 lead in A320/B737 market, be aware ob Boeing pressuring A330neo with B787, and outsell A350 vs. B777x.
        I expect Airbus to lead with A320 and A350 over it’s opponents, as long as Airbus can maintain a slight loss from A330neo vs. B787 and doesn’t miss the point to fully replace the A330,
        Airbus will be successful.
        I don’t like Boeings perspective atm – they loose with B737, they can’t do anything against A321neo,
        the B777x might not be able to stop A350, and the B787 is a wonderful plane for many airlines thus selling really well, though not earning money overall.

        Why should Airbus take 5bn of $ and throw it on a A380 with mediocre market chances?
        Win with A320neo and A350, limit Boeings B787, and Airbus all over.

        • That doesnt explain why Boeing took $5 bn and threw it at the 747 to make the 747-800. Back in early 2000 ,they thought like Airbus there would be sustained orders for their 467 seater 747-8 and that would also get orders as a dedicated cargo carrier, maybe around 24 or so a year.
          Of course Boeing has cut its own throat here as LNC has said before
          ‘Our numbers give the 777-9 a substantial advantage over the 747-8.’
          Perhaps more airlines are following the example of American Airlines who were an early adopter of pitching for the mid- upper sized planes like the DC10 or L-1011 for their flexibility and avoid the 747 size.

          • I’m pretty sure Boeing regrets the B748 today.

            There was some “flag carrier thinking” in it, Boeing would have been far better off with building a B737 replacement and letting Airbus go south with A380 issues.

            Instead they lost one of the best positions in developing B748, getting in trouble with the B787 dev. and than getting caught from Airbus with the A320neo.

            You can bet the new flagship for many airlines will be A350 or B777x.
            Now a lot of B772 and it’s versions will come of age,
            B787-10 and A359 are replacements, though first lacks range.

            In a few years, many B773 will come of age,
            and it will be interesting to see if Airlines choose B779x or A350-1000 as replacement.

            The last few years, many B744 left fleets all over the world – and they have been replaced mainly by B77W – not by A380 or B748 as one may think.

        • All versions of the 747 were success until the 747-8I (the 8F is still out)

          There were no long range jets to match it, 4 engine or twin.

          There were not the frequencies we see today.

          Boeing could sell it at a significant profit.

          Both the A380 and 747-8I launched into whole different world and neither one ahs done well.

          I believe the 747-8I could be stretched but no point.

          Exactly why Boeing launched the 747-8 is uncertain. They did not have the market. It may have been a way to keep A380 prices down and a hope to sell enough 747-8 to break even.

          Boeing seems to have very good markets assessment, so I don’t think that was it.

          However, cost went out of control on the 747-8 when the outsourcing of the engineering (Russia) screwed it up while at the same time the management screw up on the 787 stretched the engineering departments beyond the breaking point.

          It would have ben much lower cost normally.

  23. Amid all the lively comments & discussions here about the future of 380, 779 and 35K within & beyond SQ in the market, am I the only one here who noticed something technically much more basic but odd about that headline illustration of a 779 in SQ livery?

    The depiction has the GE9X with a by-pass exhaust duct rim in chevron-toothed pattern a-la- Trent 1000, GENx and CFM-Leap1B. I understand that was the chosen engine nacelle design for 77X initially but not anymore for @ least 2 yrs.

    I checked the SQ 779 illustration in Boeing press release and the GE9X still has the conventional by-pass exhaust duct rim. Wish someone from Leeham can explain…

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