Airbus says that its upsized A380, capable of carrying up as many as 1,000 passengers, remains on the drawing board for launch in 2020.
Known as the A380-900, it's a big brother to the original A380-800 but was shelved in May 2010 due to soft demand for a supersized superjumbo.
"We have a design for the A380-900 which can be reactivated at the appropriate time" Bob Lange, Airbus vice-president of marketing for the A380, told Australian Business Traveller.
"My best estimate of that appropriate time at the moment would probably be (to enter service) at the beginning of the next decade."
Airbus is concentrating its energies on building the A380, Lange says, "and at the high end of the market we are not seeing the strength of demand to launch that product."
The A380-900 will carry at least 100 more passengers than current A380-800, with 650 passengers in a standard multi-class configuration and over 900 passengers if filled with with economy-only seating.
(Lufthansa and Air France-KLM had reportedly expressed interest in a 1,000 seat version, which is a lot of middle seats!)
TheA380-900 is essentially a stretched version of the A380-800, measuring 79.4m from tip to tail -- 6.4m (the length of a shipping container) more than today's A380.
Airbus executive vice president Tom Williams says that expanding the already huge A380-800 to even larger variants was the plan from the start.
“I lead the team that designed the wings of the A380, and (when she first saw the models) even my good lady wife was quick to point out that the wings are very big in comparison to the fuselage” Williams told Australian Business Traveller earlier this year.
“The wings are in fact designed for a much larger airplane, so we have the capability of going to a bigger fuselage – we can stretch the fuselage very easily.”
"And we have airlines today who tell us they love the A380 but it’s too small! Now it’s not an engineering issue – we can make it bigger – it’s more a question of what would be a good business case and where the market for this is."
These supersized aircraft are central to Airbus' belief that the global travel market will settle on "mega-hubs" for long-haul travel – each of which will cater to more than 10,000 passengers per day – with other destinations being reached by transfers.
And according to Airbus, those mega-hubs will demand a mega-sized A380 to provide enough seats.
Australian Business Traveller is visiting Airbus in Toulouse, France as a guest of Thai Airways.
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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.