If you haven’t had the opportunity to fly on an Airbus A380 or Boeing 747-8i, it’s pretty awesome. But, are those planes going away? That’s the question that was asked during an interview that I participated in with Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time) on Fox News’ Happening Now.
Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com
The success of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and to a lesser degree the A350 (just rolling out now) have made those planes much more popular choices than the true jumbos. The 787 has been adopted worldwide with a record order book and it’s being embraced by the US carriers. It (and the A350) also don’t require the massive airport modifications that the A380 needs.
I do think the A380 is likely to have more trouble with profitability and garnering new orders than the 747-8i in the near future. For starters, it was built from the ground up as a new plane, and its primary customer, Emirates, already says the plane needs new engines. The 747-8i was a redesign for Boeing of the previous 747-400, which may mean they have less sunk costs. They can also sell the plane as a freighter (747-8F), and actually has more orders than the passenger version.
While customers like these big planes, frequency of schedule is a more important element. Take my home airport of Washington Dulles. British Airways has two daily departures to London Heathrow, one at 6:30pm and another at 10:25 pm. Customers are likely to choose the flight that fits their schedule. If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep across the pond, you’ll likely book the 10:25 pm as it’s likely closer to an East coast passenger’s bedtime than the 6:30. And, if you need to have a meeting the next morning in London, you’ll take the 6:30pm and make sure you land before 7am local time for a full day in London.
One of the very few new opportunities for growth for these large planes I believe is the trans-Atlantic market between the East coast of the US and points like London and Paris. But, with the airlines focusing on frequency and profitability, and the chance that Boeing might re-start production of the 757, a plane already used on a number of trans-Atlantic flights, I just don’t see a lot more growth.
Don’t get me wrong, I really love flying the 747-8i. My daughter got a huge kick out of flying upstairs on it last year. And, I’ve had a number of enjoyable rides on the A380.
And, Ben had the ultimate A380 ride, I’m very jealous. I’ll do my best to fly in an apartment and take a shower one of these days. But, for the time being, I don’t see growth for the jumbo jets. They definitely have a place, especially given the Emirates model, but I think we’ve seen the growth footprint of the A380 for the foreseeable future.
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