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At the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany this week, Airbus unveiled its 2017 plans for an 11-abreast, 3 x 5 x 3 seat configuration in the economy section of its A380s. Cramped, narrow and poorly laid out, this design is clearly intended to save shareholders money while disregarding the comfort of the tightly-packed passengers who will actually sit in them.
The A380s’s present economy cabin configuration is an already-snug 3 x 4 x 3. The new 3 x 5 x 3 layout will preserve each economy seat’s width of 18 inches while bumping the plane’s passenger capacity from 525 to 544, and probably adding a few pounds’ worth of takeoff weight. The three seats near the window on each side will be raised up by a few inches, freeing up just enough room for a fifth seat to further cramp each row’s mid-section. (Just when you thought getting a middle seat couldn’t be worse—it turns out it could be.)
Airbus spins their motive behind this new seating design as a means of empowering budget-conscious economy passengers to decide if it’s worth their while to sacrifice some comfort for cheaper seats. However, the European-owned manufacturer is concerned with their own bottom line, as well; with major carriers like Lufthansa, KLM and Virgin Atlantic passing on orders of this behemoth aircraft designed for a luxury-focused pre-2008 world, Airbus is now looking to compete for the growing Asian budget-carrier market.
Emirates, the biggest purchaser of the A380, has yet to sign off on this new economy-cabin configuration, opting instead to request expensive fuel-efficient engines (like the Rolls Royce models featured on Airbus’ A350-900s and A330-900neos) that could save about 20% per seat in operating costs. Airbus has yet to commit to Emirates’ request—but the result of this stand-off could give wing to a new market focus for the A380.
Once again, Boeing, it looks like it’s your move.