Airbus Group SE is making a fresh sales pitch for its A380 superjumbo with half a dozen proposals to accommodate more than 80 additional seats, seeking to enhance the flagship jet’s economic credentials after a struggle to win orders in recent years. The changes on offer include removing an upper-deck stowage area to add 10 business-class seats, re-positioning the main staircase to clear the way for 20 more premium and economy berths, and moving to an 11-abreast layout on the main deck to accommodate 23 extra people in coach, Airbus said Tuesday.
“We are adapting the aircraft to meet evolving market needs,” Kiran Rao, executive vice president of strategy of Airbus’s commercial-plane unit, said in a statement.
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The A380 now typically seats about 550 passengers on two decks in a three-class layout, though many airlines opt for fewer seats and add flourishes such as bars and showers at Dubai-based Emirates or in-flight duty-free shops at Korean Air Lines Co. Only Emirates, the biggest superjumbo operator, has pushed capacity beyond 600 people on some routes, even though the plane could carry more than 800 in an all-economy formation.
Airbus’s pitch that the A380 is ideal for addressing ever-increasing travel demand and congestion at airports has failed to translate into rising orders. The first burst of deals after the model was introduced more than a decade ago has slowed to a trickle, with no sales in the U.S. and Emirates the lone meaningful prospective buyer, and then only if the plane gets a costly new engine.
Toulouse, France-based Airbus has responded by scaling back output of its biggest jet, following rival Boeing Co. which has also struggled to find buyers for the latest version of its 747 jumbo.
Other A380 enhancements suggested by Airbus include a redesign of the rear spiral staircase into a straight configuration, allowing for 14 more passengers, and moving the pilot rest area next to the cabin-crew sleep zone to create space for three more premium-economy seats. It also proposes adding 11 passengers by shifting to a nine-abreast layout in that class on the main deck.
Airbus revealed the proposed changes at the 2017 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, where manufacturers and airlines have paraded a variety of cabin enhancements.