Why Emirates Rejected The Airbus A380plus

Airbus released the A380plus as a study to address some of the initial concerns with the A380-800

The Airbus A380 is a plane that has undoubtedly made a lasting impression on the aviation industry.

It was designed during the quad-engine era when plane makers undertook relevant steps to outdo each other and notably remove Boeing’s strong dominance in the long-haul market. It was also designed to be the largest commercial airliner, capable of carrying hundreds of passengers across continents.

Emirates And The Airbus A380 Fleet

Emirates became the flagship customer for the A380, operating a great fleet of these gigantic aircraft. At its peak, Emirates flew more Airbus A380s than most customers combined with 100 active units. With such a reliance on the model, questions would always persist about how, one day, Emirates would replace the A380 within its portfolio.

Of course, Airbus was also trying to understand how they would revitalize the program, which struggled for sales considerably despite its size and ability. It comes with A380plus, a study that had promise per Airbus but one that the Dubai-based Emirates rejected. Why though?  

Factors That Contributed To Emirates’ Decision

Emirates’ decision not to order the Airbus A380plus was a significant development in the aviation industry and a telling tale for the Airbus A380 program.

Many people believed it was the nail in the coffin for the A380’s long-term place within the industry. A commitment to the plane from Emirates at such a scale could’ve been just what they needed. For Emirates, though, several factors contributed to this decision.

Emirates had already amassed a substantial fleet of A380s and was looking to optimize its operations for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Yes, the A380 worked, and yes, the company was open to new alterations, something it rings home even more nowadays.

However, at the time of the A380plus and the idea that Airbus was exploring potential studies, Emirates maintained that their priority was more on a re-engine of the A380. This would’ve been a neo rather than a plus, which would enhance specifications.

Emirates were, and you’d argue nowadays, still of the firm assumption that as engine makers develop what they produce, the ability to save by implementing such technology onto a plane like the A380 could be fantastic.

It was also worth considering that at the time of the A3880plus emerging into the industry, Emirates was also trying to determine the direction they’d head into the future. This included debating orders for another widebody twin-engine aircraft. The way the industry has generally headed in recent times.

What Could’ve Been With The Airbus A380plus

But Airbus had goals for the plus that weren’t achieved, so what did the plane entail to give us a better understanding of what it could’ve offered Emirates hypothetically?

The study would’ve seen new large winglets, one of the most noticeable differences between it and the A380-800. Airbus said that the aircraft could thus offer 4% fuel burn savings.

Rendering of the proposed Airbus A380plus

Aerodynamic improvements would’ve also been introduced with a focus on wing refinements. Airbus quoted the plane as having a 13% cost-per-seat reduction benefit compared to what they currently offer.

Optimization of the cabin would allow for additional seats, too, should an airline wish to activate this potential, meaning for an airline flying between hubs, it could be just what they’d be after. At least, this is what Airbus was mainly hoping for.

The Challenges That Faced The A380plus

Despite its design and promise to improve the existing A380 base by making it a more desirable aircraft, the A380plus faced the same problems as its A380-800. It only worsened, given the platform the new variant didn’t have for itself.

The market was ultimately changing and looking towards more point-to-point travel. As a result, most companies that one day would’ve looked towards the 747 or maybe an A380 had it been released earlier were heading elsewhere. These types of planes lost their appeal.

The Future Of Emirates And The A380

For Emirates especially, what they were after and the only means they’d likely commit to additional A380s would be through a re-engine. Emirates reiterated that they also believed a re-engine would harbour many benefits than Airbus noted with its A380plus.

Thus, the question remains of why they would commit to an aircraft that they didn’t see enough positive returns on. You could make the case that this was a mistake on Airbus’ part.

By looking towards releasing a plane that wasn’t ideal for their leading program supporter. However, some would say that Emirates’ expectations were completely unrealistic.

Ultimately, Emirates rejected the premise of the A380plus for many reasons, but if you want to simplify it, the understanding has to be that the aircraft wasn’t optimal for them.

Many could argue that it wasn’t what they were requesting from the plane maker. Pairing all this together is a highly desirable option for the airline to pursue, especially considering the costs involved. An upgrade needs to be deemed worth it.

Daniel Fowkes
23 Oct 2023
· Aircraft 
· Airlines 

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  1. An interesting viewpoint but of necessity since what abbreviated. No mention of the ongoing R/R battle that was going on at the time, or the potential for BA to come on board being thwarted by the move into IAG

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