Are Jumbo Jets Going Away?

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.

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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.

Jumbo Jets

Jumbo Jets

On The Stairs of Lufthansa’s 747-8i

Jumbo Jets

Cat Testing Out The New Business Class Seats On The Lufthansa 747-8i


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.

The post Are Jumbo Jets Going Away? was published first on Pizza In Motion.

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  1. Boeing restarting production on the 757? I feel like that has been discussed for years and Boeing has always been firm that it is not going to do so. Rest of the article is spot on.

    1. Dave, I know it’s a long shot, but I thought I read an article where Boeing was polling customers on new engines for a frame the same or similar to the 757. I’ll see if I can dig it up.

      1. Read that too since there’s now a gap between the 737-900 and the 787-8 which may be too big for some customers. Still a long shot. As for the the A380, it serves EK’s business plan/operations model of high volume feeder flights of tourists who are not time sensitive, and some business travellers who similarly don’t need frequency. But some A380 routes are backed up at times by 777 or A330 flights to provide that schedule flexibility. For the balance of the decade the A380 will continue to service high density long haul routes but orders have pretty much petered out at Toulouse…as have those at Everett for the B748i.

        1. David, one of the bigger issues I see here is by the time demand picks back up for jumbos (and I believe it will), one or both of those lines may be mothballed.

  2. No, Boeing is not going to restart the 757 program—it’s not as though there’s a dormant assembly line somewhere. All of the tooling for the aircraft was destroyed at the end of the production run in order to prevent it from being used again. They have also stressed that the 737 MAX 9 fills the 757’s shoes on something like 90% of the routes that use the 757 today, so they are not in a hurry to compete with themselves. There is not going to be a clean-sheet replacement program for the 757; they will replace the 737 and 757 with a single new aircraft, and that program won’t start for probably more than a decade. They want their product line to jump from the 737 MAX 9 to the 787-8. Believe it or not, they can be made to seat the same number of passengers. The 737 MAX 9 seats up to 220 in a single class configuration, and United’s 787-8 seats 219, so they do logically back up to one another in size.

    1. Austin, I know there’s no dormant assembly line. But, there’s been more than one report about Boeing polling customers and talking to engine manufacturers about the possibility of another frame. That doesn’t make it so, but also doesnt preclude a plane on between the Max and the 788.

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