BA Sale

British Airways to order new A380s?

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Bloomberg reported on Friday that British Airways is in negotiations with Airbus to order an additional tranche of A380 aircraft.

There could be some truth in this.  IAG has said that it would be willing to buy 6-7 second hand A380 aircraft, and there are a lot of them on the market.  Emirates and Singapore Airlines have started to retire their earliest aircraft and Malaysia Airlines was, at one point, trying to offload theirs too.

There is a snag with these ‘old’ (10-12 years old at most) aircraft though.

Apart from engine issues (BA is only likely to want A380 aircraft with engines which match the existing Rolls-Royce fleet), the earliest A380 aircraft were substantially heavier than promised – equivalent to the weight of 55 passengers.  Whilst there is always a price that would make a deal work, the desperation for orders at Airbus means that getting new aircraft at a big discount may be a better choice

Perhaps more importantly, Airbus has published new options for potential customers (click to enlarge slightly):

New A380 options with cabin enablers

As you can see from the slide above, there is the potential to add an extra 78 seats for airlines who are willing to remove the main staircase and, by raising the level of the upper deck, move to 11 across in Economy in a 3-5-3 configuration.  The seat width remains the same due to narrower aisles and the removal of at-window storage.  The Airbus website explains in more detail how this would be done.

John Leahy from Airbus told Bloomberg Television last week, according to the article linked to above, that he expected a European airline to confirm an A380 order this year.  British Airways is believed to be the carrier.

The Emirates order for 36 new A380 aircraft placed last week means that the aircraft will continue to be built for at least another decade, giving BA more confidence if it does move forward.

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  1. Delta has a track record of buying second hand so it will be interesting to see if they go after the a380s when the price drops low enough. The a380 seat mile cost is about 20% lower than its only competitor the 773ER so it makes a lot of sense provided operators can fill the aircraft.

    • “If we were to fly two 787s tail-to-tail, the per-seat cost would be less than the A380,” the CEO of Qantas, Alan Joyce, told Business Insider in an interview. (Qantas’ 787 Dreamliner has 236 seats, while its A380 has 486.)

      • Except that in airports like LHR and HKG most airlines will not have the slots to do so. From my POV I don’t really care about the issues, I just like flying the aircraft so much better than any other around today so I’m happy it has bought some time. Hopefully, during that time, both markets and technology will develop in such a way as to make it more sustainable.

        • also pilots

        • Depends on what cabin I’m in whether or not i want to be on an A380 or not. Imagine being stuck in that middle of 5 seat in economy on a 10 hour plus flight. BA’s upper deck economy on the A380 isn’t bad though, being 2-4-2.

        • Yup, the only exception are slot constrained airports, however, airlines still need to fill A380s to the brim (95%+) to make them worthwhile on the route else you may as well stick 777’s or equivalent on there, plus 777 take more cargo hence why BA flies both to HKG.

          I think BA are the only airline bar Emirates (who arguably have their’s for publicity reasons; 75% capacity…) who could take more of these jets; they still have 7 options from the original order of 12. They can fill them up and LHR slots are hard to come by.

          Personally I would order more A350-1000s; A380 is too big, too expensive and too much of a risk.

        • the_real_a says:

          I wonder if by raising the floor height you can actually fit in more cargo to the new design…

        • The bottom cargo area isn’t the issue; its the fact that the length of the A380 itself is limiting the cargo carried (makes sense given 2 full pax floors). The -800 is actually a shrink of the “true and optimised” A380; the -900. The latter likely would’ve certainly had better CASM but filling the thing was the issue AB were concerned about. As for raising the floor, cargo is generally put in ULDs rather than bulk, it would be an engineering nightmare to do that and may as well build a new airliner!

          For interest there will never be an A380 freighter; for one thing the floor on the lower pax deck would need re-jigging and strengthened (£££). Also, due to the MTOW of the A380 it will very likely max out the MTOW before space size. Though arguably can carry bulky light items but those are few.

      • when Alan Joyce was speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society a couple of months ago, he was asked under what circumstances he would buy more A380s … he said, he would have to be drunk!

        but then Qantas are about as far removed from the EK hub model as you can get.

      • There’s an enormous caveat on what he said there and it is the price of aviation fuel (or oil) combined with the purchase price of the aircraft.

        As the price of fuel drops the A380 becomes more competitive, as the acquisition price drops the A380 also becomes more competitive.

        I’m very skeptical that 2 full 787’s burn less fuel per passenger than a full a380 configured with the same cabin ratios. You have to pull 2 extra wings, tails a fuselages through the air and if the A380 does have an economy of scale advantage the fuel load will scale even more in the A380’s favour.

        He might be right but I’d be shocked. I think it’s more the case that Qantas couldn’t fill enough A380’s to make it worthwhile running with another aircraft type.

        • Also did they get the early heavy ones? If so I could possibly see it might be the case.

        • The B787-9 burns around 5,400kg/h of fuel and, in Qantas config is 42J, 28 W and 166Y making 236 in total.

          The A380-800 burns around 12,000kg/h of fuel and, in Qantas config is 14F, 64J, 35W and 371Y making 484 in total.

          By flying 2x 787s that would be 84J, 56W and 332Y making 472 in total, though no F but many more J and W. Total fuel burn for both planes would be 10,800kg/h. Joyce’s comment is sensible just with quick calcs.

          Of course this is very simplistic (no cap costs/slots/pilots etc) but if you scale up to A380 you want economies of scale and that just isn’t happening in any meaningful way on the large % of cost per flight.

          Big 500+ pax seat jets aren’t bad and I’m sure there will be a future for them, its just that the A380 is a bad airplane and it can only be used effectively on a few niche trunk routes. The sales figures would agree with that premise. Emirates even has it in their annual report; 75% seat usage; that alone suggests some routes they’re operating too large an airplane and literally just burning money.

          I doubt even a NEO’ed A380 will help much as it’s competitors (yes the 787 and A350) will get those new engines and as they’re big sellers RR/GE will optimise engines for those frames, why bother with a plane that will only sell 6 frames a year.

  2. I see why we obsess over collecting points. I can’t imagine sitting in that row of 5 for 10+ hours. Even if my ticket is substantially discounted.

    Airports must be pretty annoyed with the all the upheaval that was required to accommodate the big bird only for its future to be questioned so early on.

    • Completely agree. For a long economy flight, I’d prefer being on a A330/A340 where I’m guaranteed either an aisle seat or only being 1 seat from the aisle in the 2-4-2 layout. Imagine being a solo flyer and ending up stuck in the middle seat in the block of 5!

      • Some American planes (or is it United) are/were 2-5-2 and some posters on FT have defended their choice of the inner middle seat.

        • Yeah, American have 2-5-2 on some of their 777. Their other ones are 10 across, so you’d have the chance of being in the middle of 5 against the narrower seats.

          My choice on long haul economy when travelling solo is always the aisle seat in a middle block; quite often you won’t get anyone next to you if the flight isn’t sold out.

        • I’d say 2-5-2 is way better than 3-3-3

  3. Kilburnflyer says:

    O/T Managed to snag one of the £50 flights that Virgin Atlantic were giving away this morning at Waterloo station (leaves tomorrow on VS117 to Miami). Are there any other Head For Points readers who will be joining me?

    • Lesves tomorrow?! How are you meant to get an ESTA approved?

      • Presumably one would only take advantage of this is one already has an ESTA!

      • ESTAs can be approved instantly once the online form is filled in, as I found out when I had to do it on my iPad at the gate! Although I’d not bet on having staff as nice as the ones I had on my AA flight from Edinburgh.

        • Is that still the case? A coupe of years ago I got mine instantly, but when I had to do a new one this year it took a couple of days. I think they might have changed what they check in between so they now take longer?

      • Kilburnflyer says:

        I already have an ESTA approved and valid from a previous trip (but for those who don’t there is usually instant/an hour or two approval). Biz team @ VS is organising ticketing, awaiting there call in next hour or so to ticket

      • According to wikipedia “about 99% of applications are approved in 5 seconds. ” They also have a photo on there of an ‘ESTA terminal’ at Brussels airport, so they evidently have provision if you have not applied.

        Many years ago my wife applied at the airport as she was unaware of the requirement.

        I applied yesterday afternoon and its approved.

    • Is it lucky dip at Waterloo or is it a raffle system? Any idea if they’re continuing for the rest of the week or Monday only?

    • Screw it, lets do it?! Did that actually work?

      • Kilburnflyer says:

        I got there at 6:55am and was one of the last people who managed to get a ticket (only 3 people behind me in queue were successful). Found VS crew member outside Starbucks on main concourse and they told me to join the queue there. They took contact details so that Virgin Atlantic office could subsequently get in contact to book. Per the T&Cs these tickets do not earn any miles with flying club FYI

  4. Ah, it’s one day only. 50 tickets for 50 quid but you have to know the secret phrase (“Screw it, let’s do it”). Running until 10am today but I expect all tickets will be gone.

  5. RussellH says:

    What would be civilised would be to see an airline using the extra space on an A380 to give pax in Y a little extra space. Call it SuperJumbo class or something.

    I have only been on an A380 once, upper deck BA 2-4-2 and it was still really cramped; I am only 170cm, so what it must be like if you are 180cm or more I hate to think. We also benefited hugely from the couple next to me being moved into CW after an hour into the flight (family connections pulling strings).

    It was far worse on the 747 coming back.

    • lack of space is unfortunately due to BA’s configuration of their A380. MH has more room on theirs in Y.

  6. It obviously seems like Airbus needs to see the A380 production line keep on running far more than the airlines do (hardly surprising really given that they clearly haven’t yet manufactured nearly enough of them to write off the original costs of designing the aircraft or building the product production line) and so now appears to have improved both the product options and its pricing and also done a deal with the leading customer in order to make this a virtual fete accomplis.

    Also leaving aside the economics involved it would surely also be a huge wound to Airbus corporate (for which read mainly French) pride to admit that it had been a mistake to go ahead with the whole A380 project.

    • Anthony Dunn says:

      Hmmm, I thought that it had been reported that Airbus had recouped its development costs on the A380. It would be fascinating to read the business model/case that Airbus worked up to justify the A380 programme. Presumably a large part of this was based on a forecast of substantial expansion in flying, airport capacity restrictions at major O&D points (like LHR) translating to a paucity of ATC slots and Boeing not progressing beyond the 747-800 series.

      As I’ve yet to fly on an A380 (mainly B773, A333 and B788s these days), I still await the pleasure of what is claimed to be one of the quietest experiences in the air.

      • I think the plan is to keep it going until China and India, the obvious buyers of such massive aircraft given their populations, develop enough to want them.

        • Hopefully enough orders to justify a new folding wing and engine updates as I’m sure the economics would improve substantially then but would need big orders to justify the development costs.

      • I had a feeling AB wrote off the A380 development costs and early builds a few years ago.

  7. in 2008 michael o’leary took out adverts for 2nd hand B737s … presumably to get some leverage with Boeing … as he then signed a massive order for new planes.

    sounds like Willie Walsh might be trying the same trick.

  8. I presume the quietness comes out of using four modest sized engines that don’t have to work too hard rather than the more economically and fuel efficient alternative of two larger engines that do work jolly hard, as seen on the Boeing 777 and 787.

    I’m not sure if the A380 had to use four engines because two engines that large would have been too difficult to physically handle in engineering facilities when off the plane or simply because of a public perception at the time of design that four engines were still the norm safety wise for a plane of this size (because the four engined 747 was at that time still the dominant long haul aircraft). Probably three engines were all that were really needed but past experiences of engine failures on engines located in the tail (thinking in particular of the Sioux City DC10) seem to have put off aircraft designers from trying any further three engined configurations? Also servicing and removing an engine located in the tail presumably involves significantly more man hours.

    Regarding Boeing covering their original development costs etc a lot of that depends on how the accountants write the balance sheets but it certainly must be the case that the A380 has not made any kind of significant profit as a project in comparison to the enormously profitable A319, A320 and A321 models. The smaller A318 is the only failure in that series given that most airlines wanting an aircraft of this capacity seem to have chosen the Embraer E170 or E190 series instead. Although I’m sure that no line of aircraft has been as profitable for a manufacturer as the Boeing 737 series and its many sub-derivatives.

    • A350 is my favourite; been using them quite a bit in Qatar (now old!) J and its a fantastic aircraft. As for noise levels I think top deck at the front on A380 and front of A350 are quite similar, however, the XWB engines on the 350 have a “nicer” noise profile in my opinion vs the 900’s and GE.

      Historically they used 4 engines purely for range as twins just didn’t have the legs. Then the 777 with ETOPS came along and now I doubt we’ll see a new quad being produced in future; the economics per seat just can’t compete with twins.

      318 filled a certain niche, though the economics were too similar to the 319. Just as the case why the 319neo is a poor seller vs the 320neo; for a bit more fuel burn and capital costs airlines can have a much more capable airliner.

      • The A318 is really there for short runway airports still wanting to operate to destinations an hour or more away with up to 132 passengers (or much less on luxury services such as BA’s business class only 318 to JFK) but the Embraer E170 and E190 with their 70 and 100 passenger load capabilities are probably closer to the aircraft size it is easiest to fill on short haul routes from these smaller airports (eg London City). However when Stobart decided to invest in turning Southend in to a modern jet airport they sensibly made the runway extension long enough to handle A319s so that it could handle aircraft on Easyjet’s main fleet.

        Presumably an A317 or A316 to compete with the Embraers wasn’t possible with the A320 series fuselage concept and hence why they haven’t tried scaling down in size that far? However there are now 526 Embraer E190s in service and 626 on order and 437 E170s in service and 459 on order. So it does seem that both Airbus and Boeing have passed up on a pretty substantial possible volume of potential additional aircraft sales by not choosing to pitch at this end of the marketplace.

        • There is an interesting thread on the E190 below, one commentator does compare economics of E190 to A320:

          I’m not an engineer but I would assume any A317 would be too heavy, too much drag (short stubby) if based off A320 plus would likely need new wing and derated (unoptimised) engine.

          The 318 was a shrink of a shrink and it wasn’t a big seller and had poor casm. The latest 319neo is a poor seller (along with 737-max7) so is there a market for these smaller jets for a company like AB? Even the C-series and E2 that are optimized for 100-130 seats have been poor sellers relatively. Base now seems to be A320neo; that plane is just so capable and is selling like hotcakes.

          I’ve never actually been on the 318 but will tick that off when I go on BA001 in April!

        • Didn’t realise BA literally only has the one A318 for the JFK service. So presumably if that has a sudden major technical problem passengers are just sent over to Heathrow instead and offered something for their trouble. And when it has a major strip down check that just means no service on the route from LCY to JFK for several weeks or months. So that’s definitely very much a niche service but perhaps BA had plans to operate several more of these aircraft to the USA from LCY when they started this project?

          It seems the only other European scheduled operators of the A318 are Air France with 18 aircraft and TAROM of Romania with four. I suppose this presumably ties in with Air France’s extensive network of flights to small regional airports around the country from Paris.

          Interesting that Easyjet has so many A319s when the aircraft has otherwise been a poor seller (but presumably that was how they got their extra special deal for the planes) but I see they now have 30 A321neos on order with deliveries from July this year onwards. So Easyjet seems to be slowly moving towards a conventional larger airline mixed fleet model (noting that they of course also started operations with the B737).

        • BA had 2x A318 as they used to have a twice daily LCY to JFK, last year that went down to once daily and the 2nd frame was leased to Titan Airways from memory.

          Any IRROPS yes one heads to LHR. They actually have a gap in the LCYJFK schedule this this year due to planned maintenance on the frame.

          There were never any plans to operate from LCY to any other cities in the US. With Crossrail and hearing about the yields on the BA1 service I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets canned too. For my flight in April there only seem to be 2 others on the plane and, as its a BAEX heavy flight most would’ve already chosen their seat by now; unless book last minute.

          Easyjet will move to A320neo as their base aircraft and put the A321neo on heavy routes with limited slots e.g. AMS to LGW. Makes sense; A320neo actually burns less fuel than A318.

          • Yes, Titan. If you search HFP I posted a link to the Titan brochure explaining why you should charter it!

        • Boeing and Embraer are in merger talks so perhaps Boeing will deal with it that way 🙂

    • the_real_a says:

      Interestingly AB has a patent granted for the mounting of a third engine in classic the DC-10 configuration. The diagram looks a lot like the a380 🙂 I’m sure it will never see the light as companies file patents these days for any idea that comes to mind.

    • Margaret Carre says:

      This is my reasoning for always choosing Airbus with 4 engines. 2 engines scares me.

  9. David S says:

    I love the A380 and would happily pay a small premium to fly on it

  10. Rob,

    Julian makes a good point about the A380 engines being under-stressed, which ought to translate into fewer maintenance issues. The new engine for the 777X is a total beast.

    Engines in the tail seem to be only for small jets these days. The DC-10 had its safety issues, but the L-1011 was successful, at least in engineering terms – it nearly bankrupted Lockheed and RR of course.

    • Different Rob here, interesting point but you still have the weight to lug around; its a bit of a balancing act.

      I know some A350 operators (SQ, CX) re-certify the plane for a lower MTOW and adjust the thrust (the pilot still puts 100% power on but the engine doesn’t goto its max potential; its a bit more complex but that’s the basic). That’s sensible if you have a large fleet and they cover a similar range (some A350s have extreme ranges and some Cathays/Sin are used for sub 5 hour flights), however, that’s not really possibly with BA’s small A380 fleet and routes.

      Just to add, the early A380s had custom wiring as well as being overweight. Along with the RR engines they also missed the PIPs and wing twists. If I were Cruz I would do the same thing, dont touch the older a380s with a barge pole in order to push AB into a good deal on new ones; another 8 or so would be sensible to BA given the routes they can deploy on, slots and seat utilisation. Said before, i would have A350-1000 over new A380s any day though.

  11. OT –

    Rob (or anyone else) have you received your Curve card yet? Any initial comments?

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