back to all news

Airbus reveals A380 'Budget Economy' seating, 11-across squeeze

By David Flynn     Filed under: Airbus, Airbus A380

UPDATE | Airbus is ready to pack even more economy passengers into its A380 superjumbo with a tight-fitting '11 across' seating option.

Forget about the cheap seats being grouped in a 3-4-3 layout: Airbus has squeezed an extra seat into the centre row to create a 3-5-3 configuration. 

Here's the official Airbus PR pic, showing the middle seat which nobody will want to be stuck in.

The photo below – snapped at this week's Aircraft Interiors Expo at Hamburg by aviation blogger Jason Rabinowitz – shows a cabin mockup.

The seats are still 18 inches wide, but the armrests are exceptionally narrow.

And pay close attention to the window seat. The A and K seats are usually a top pick for frequent travellers, but not if your A380 has been configured in 'Sardine Mode'.

PREVIOUS | Airbus is inviting airlines to put the squeeze on passengers with extra-narrow 'budget economy' class seating.

The seat will be less than 17 inches wide, compared to the 17.5 inches of a Qantas Airbus A380 economy seat by way of example.

The maker of the A320 and A330 jets flown by most of the world's airlines, along with the A380 superjumbo and the next-gen A350, will now spruik three grades of economy seating available to customers.

These will be marketed as Premium Economy, Comfort Economy and Budget Economy, according to industry outlet Leeham News.

Premium Economy is along the same lines as offered by many airlines including Qantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and soon Singapore Airlines.

The seats are typically different to a standard economy seat with a 19 inch width, extra legroom, legrests and better support around the neck and lower back.

Comfort Economy is Airbus' moniker for standard economy seats, which are usually around 18 inches wide.

Budget Economy is a new name for what in industry-speak Airbus has previously tagged as a High Efficiency layout so that airlines can squeeze more passengers into less space.

Airbus will launch its new seat line-up at next week's Aircraft Interiors Expo at Hamburg.

Having previously trumpeted 18 inch wide economy seats, as seen on its new A350 jetliner, how does Airbus reconcile this shift to the tighter end of town?

It's all about "choice", Airbus exec Chris Emerson tells Leeham News, describing the 18 inch campaign as "Phase One" of a larger marketing push.

“When you get up to 18 inches, you are barely touching shoulder-to-shoulder.... That was phase one."

"As we move into phase two, we want to put focus on the economy market place,” he said.

"Ninety percent of world travelers are economy. But not all are homogenous. It’s becoming more and more complex."

"You are segmenting the cabin space, pricing by different seats. We want to give a choice to the 90% of the economy passengers. They are going to be the driver of the growth, the doubling of growth in the next 15 years."

‘With this [economy] market place to stimulate the growth, we want to offer choice,” Emerson said: “Nine (abreast) in Budget Economy, eight in Comfort Economy, seven in Premium Economy and six in Business Class. This is the ability of the OEMs to offer choice at the lowest unit cost. By offering choice, [the airlines] can maximize revenue.”

Read more: Airbus to tout economy "Choice" at Hamburg interiors show

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 9/4/15 by RK

Oh please, no. This is getting ridiculous.

1 on 9/4/15 by undertheradar

if you dont like it...simply dont fly the airline that adopts it...AirAsiaX currently have 3-3-3 Y/C on A330 a/c...which is price pointed to a particular's all about's up to you to do your homework before making that choice

2 on 9/4/15 by Serg

Does not matter how ridiculous it gets this is what herd wants - save a dollar. Carriers just deliver.

3 on 10/4/15 by Dale

In recent years, business class has become more like first used to be, and premium economy has become more like business used to be a long time ago.  Yet economy is moving in the opposite direction.  Soon there'll be such a big gap between PE and Econ, there'll need to be a new class invented, "Premium Economy Minus" anyone?

2 on 9/4/15 by Travelator

That's a lot of sore elbows with food trolley's coming down the isle

1 on 9/4/15 by undertheradar

which currently occurs with B777s that have 3-4-3..which is adopted by the majority of airlines that operate 777s..including so called 'premium' airlines

1 on 10/4/15 by RK

Except not even these 10 abreast 777's are going as narrow as 16.7 inches wide.

2 on 15/4/15 by goldie01

Luckily Qantas don't have 777's then.

1 on 15/4/15 by elchriss0

but they will be getting 789s which will have squishy 3-3-3 seats

3 on 9/4/15 by elchriss0

I don't get the point of this media announcement from Airbus.  They've had this for years as seen with Air Asia X A330s in 3-3-3.  As for premium eco being 19inches wide, the standard eco in SQ's A380s and 77Ws are 19inch, which is why I only fly them to europe.  If you don't care about seat width then go with someone like emirates and that's your problem if you don't like it.  I will always pay the premium for SQ eco and also the service consistency that the likes of EK don't provide.

4 on 9/4/15 by Rishi

In a matter of years they will start selling tickets to fill up the cargo bellies of those planes with living breathing human beings.

1 on 15/4/15 by Hugo

Hey, if I get to lie down that sounds great, sign me up!

5 on 10/4/15 by Richard

I think this is Airbus' way of getting us prepared for it's 9 abreast A330NEO. I think they know the NEO is going to be unbeatable with a nine abreast config but will have to back track somewhat on their "18in wide seats for everyone" marketing campaign to make it look attractive. If Qantas for example are going to have the standard 17in wide seat on it's 787's that everyone is complaining about, then 16.7in won't feel any different. Interestingly though, British Airways are about to increase seat pitch on their new arrival 787-9's to compensate for the huge customer backlash over the 17in wide with only 31in seat pitch on their new 787-8's. So maybe the the NEO will come with extra seat pitch, which would at least help, as Air ASIA X for example which has 9 abreast with 32in pitch. However, from my point of view, having recently flown in economy on a Qantas A380 to Dubai, and back on a Emirtates A380, the Emirates A380 seat is so noticeably wider, with more personal space, and therefore more comfortable and enjoyable, that I will  always choose the Emirates A380 over a Qantas A380 - so the airline loses out in the end.

1 on 10/4/15 by elchriss0

Also bare in mind that having extra seat pitch is useless if you can't fit your bum in the seat due to lack of width...not everyone has 30inch waist.  Now i'm not talking about those people who weigh 200kg and have a 60inch waist (they still need 2 seats), but those who are on the larger size like 40inch, which includes a lot of men from western countries.

1 on 10/4/15 by Richard

Yes you are absolutely correct - having flown 4hrs from SFO to ORD last year on an American Airlines 737 and sat next to a large male passenger (not obese) but I was in the middle seat - it was absolutle torture ! He was so stressed out because he couldn't move, his arm was over my arm, we couldn't put our tray tables down etc etc and then when the person in front reclined their seat I was literally stuck ! Which of course then led me to the conclusion that if I fly American again - I will choose Economy Plus - the airlines' strategy  I think...?

2 on 15/4/15 by Hugo

I'm not sure why people always talk about fitting your bum in the seat when the real problem for most people is shoulder room. 

Due to the armrest, the seat is about one inch wider at shoulder height than it is at butt height. But unless you're very fat, you're way more than an inch broader at the shoulders than the hips.

1 on 15/4/15 by elchriss0

lol because if your bum can't fit then what chance do your shoulder have

6 on 10/4/15 by RUmsey

people are getting bigger, seats are getting smaller. THis is NOT giving people what they want. What people want is business class space at economy price.

1 on 10/4/15 by elchriss0

Well actually i'd prefer Etihad's Residence space for Ryanair price...but that's just me

1 on 10/4/15 by Richard

Ha ! Excellent :)

2 on 10/4/15 by Serg

Business never happens for price of economy. However if more and more people would buy business prices eventually came down. But herd clearly shop only on price basis and except of moaning does nothing to fly comfortably. This is why we have so much low-cost carriers. Also I have read somewhere that some American company (I think Delta) made an experiment - 20% more space and asked 20% more price for it. And it was total commecial failure. So herd does not give a damn about flat bad - herd wanna save a dollar.

So as someone mentioned above business became better and better while economy became worse and worse. And it will only continue.

1 on 15/4/15 by Hugo

If premium economy were 1.5 times the space for 1.5 times the price (plus an extra twenty bucks for your marginally improved meal) I'd generally be happy to pay it. But on most routes out of Australia, premium economy winds up being 1.5 times the space for 2x the price, so I'm loath to pay it.

1 on 15/4/15 by Serg

IMHO PE greatly overpriced - well so often it less then 1.5 times space improvement and more then 2 time price increase. Carriers trying to feed me with "premium" perks (like extra baggage or priority boarding) that I am not interested whatsoever and skipping main thing what I am after - space in air. I love to see PE that in all respects like standard economy, but cost twice more and have flat bed (even old business lie flat!) as only difference from economy. But it never happens.

7 on 10/4/15 by bl812

on short haul flights it's ok-after all they don't serve food or drinks nowadays-but if you fly more than 5 hours it would be hell-fly business if you can afford it if not go by sea!

8 on 14/4/15 by karks

Well if people want the product they will pay the lower price for it, those who don't wont but Airbus are doing themselves no favours with this idea. Then again, it's only a matter of time until more airlines squeeze more people onto the A380, afterall, that's what it was designed for, shipping larger volumes or people.

1 on 14/4/15 by elchriss0

I agree,  I don't want to fly airlines with 17inch 3-4-3 crammed in 777s, so I pay the premium to fly those that still provide 19inch 3-3-3.  I avoid the 787 aswell due to the same 17inch width with 3-3-3.

I also pay the premium for the exit row seats.  That way I have widest economy seat available with max legroom...much better than being squished in the middle of a 787 with 17inch width and 31inch pitch.

9 on 14/4/15 by Peter

The masses want cheaper airfares & airlines are businesses, not charities.

10 on 14/4/15 by Kogglogs


11 on 14/4/15 by elchriss0

Oh dear god...those are even worse than 3-4-3 on 777s.  Can't wait to see the next EK seat layout just so I can laugh at all the people who have to fly with them...700+ seats

12 on 14/4/15 by Broderick

This reeks of EK input! You wont see me anywhere near such configuration. I struggle to fly the current spec on any A380!

1 on 14/4/15 by elchriss0

I dunno how but I find SQ seats on A380 to be more comfortable than EK A380 (economy).  I'm fine with SQ's A380s in eco but with EK my arse went to sleep after only a few mins.

13 on 14/4/15 by airplane_bruh

Emirates next move 

14 on 14/4/15 by Ben84

I wonder how meal service would work with the five seats in the middle? Would the passengers on the aisle seats have to pass trays and drinks on from cabin crew to the poor soul squished in the middle seat?

I'd wager this configuration will most likely be seen with budget carriers. Emirates gets a bad rep for its 3-4-3 set up on the 777, but there is only so far it can go before people won't book, despite the fare. I doubt they will use it even on the A380. 

1 on 14/4/15 by elchriss0

emirates are the main airline that have been pushing 3-5-3 on A380s

2 on 15/4/15 by Hugo

It would work the same way it worked on United's old 2-5-2 777s. (Probably some other carriers too.) It kinda sucked, though, so they went to 3-3-3 when they refurbished.

The poor squished soul in the middle seat is no further from the aisle than the guy in the window seat on most layouts (except without the added bonus of a window). It sucks but it's not impossible.

1 on 15/4/15 by elchriss0

2-5-2 is still 9 abreast so same 19inch width as 3-3-3.  3-5-3 on an A380 is only possible with 17inch width.

15 on 14/4/15 by charlieg

WOW! what a squish! If an airline actually orders it, the seat supplier will be 'laughing all the way to the bank' with a 10% increase to their bottom-line (pun intended!) for economy seating.

16 on 14/4/15 by AWA2602

Seriously? How is this even humane!?!

17 on 14/4/15 by dinkydie

18 inch width and shoulders barely touching???

18 on 15/4/15 by PunditShafton

I need a boat license!

19 on 15/4/15 by Bizflyer

Airlines that will probably go for this are EK and BA both want even more seats and whats next for BA 9 abrest busniess class a terrible idea almost as bad as 10 abrest 777 and 9 abrest 787/a330

20 on 15/4/15 by Chris_PER

Emirates and the A380NEO.  I can see whats going to happen here...

21 on 15/4/15 by riley

I like this. It opens up a flight to more marets, could lead to greater efficiencies across the whole plan.

1) A true price point for people who just want to get there

2) A standard economy for the leisure traveller

3) A premium economy for those that value a little more space but are financing their own trip, and

4) Abusiness / first hybrid for those flying on the company dollar, points loot or are well off!

22 on 15/4/15 by Matthew

But will they lower the price for these seats, or keep the current prices and hike up the "economy" to near-PE prices?

1 on 15/4/15 by elchriss0

Business will become the new first, Premium eco will become new business and SQ-style eco will become premium eco.

23 on 15/4/15 by 11sjw

How good does that middle seat look?  Oh my gawd, two sets of legs to get over on a trip to the loo.  Awesome.

Must ensure I never end up in that seating.

24 on 17/4/15 by ezihose

Good luck

We wont be on them


Related News Items


Australian business traveller newsletter

Get Updates as they happen, tailored to your preferences, right in your inbox


What topics interest you?