Airbus formalized plans to upgrade its A380 super-jumbo with fuel-saving winglets as the European plane-maker seeks to revive sales of the flagship model.
The 15-foot extensions, together with other wing refinements, will boost efficiency by as much 4 percent, Airbus said in a statement Sunday, dubbing the upgraded aircraft the “A380plus.”
Together with a revised cabin layout announced in April that will accommodate 80 more passengers, overall costs per seat should be cut by 13 percent versus the current model. The plane will have an increased maximum take-off weight of 578 metric tons to allow for the denser format, or add 300 nautical miles of range with the existing 550-seat three-class configuration.
“The A380plus is an efficient way to offer even better economics and improved operational performance,” John Leahy, Airbus’s sales chief, said in the release. The cost of the plane’s upkeep will also be reduced by longer intervals between maintenance checks.
The A380plus falls well short of the so-called “Neo” upgrade that leading customer Emirates has been demanding, but for which Airbus and engine-maker Rolls-Royce Holdings say there isn’t a business case. It may still be enough to encourage the Dubai-based carrier to purchase about 20 super-jumbos to add to more than 140 it plans to operate.
The enhancements, announced on the eve of the Paris Air Show, come as the Airbus weighs lowering production rates for the A380 below one-a-month from 2018 if it fails to secure orders this year.
(Benjamin Katz - Bloomberg News / The Seattle Times)