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July 17, 2024
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Emirates took delivery of their latest A380, A6-EOP, and will be putting it to work from December 1st.  This aircraft has 615 seats, 20% more than is typical for the A380. The high density configuration will be deployed to Bangkok, Copenhagen, Kuala Lumpur and eventually Gatwick. No doubt as more get delivered we will see this aircraft configuration in other destinations over their network.

The new configuration has no first class, but has 58 lie-flat seats in Business Class and 557 seats in Economy Class. Given the size of the aircraft, it offers unmatched ability to re-configure the floor plan and extract more revenue.  This new configuration offers a vision of the VLA not seen before.

The economics of the new model are interesting, as they further reduce the already competitive A380 seat-mile costs to about 20% below the 777-300ER, and the aircraft remains competitive with the forthcoming 777-9, expected to be 20% better than the 777-300ER on the same metric.  By re-configuring its aircraft, Emirates has found a mechanism to grow traffic while retaining industry leading seat-mile economics with the A380.  The question, which most airlines ask regarding the A380, is can we fill it?  Emirates has demonstrated that if you can fill an A380, it is a substantial generator of profitability.

We have yet to see what the impact will be at airports where more baggage will be handled than on any other flight.  In addition, the processing of people through customs and immigration will also be tested.  While the new airport in Dubai is state of the art and has the capacity to handle these larger flights, the worry is at the other end of the routes, where A380s are not the norm.

The new configuration for Emirates moves to a two-class rather than four-class configuration, opposite of the current industry trend.  As Emirates tests this strategy in certain markets, could it be a harbinger of an overall “simplification” strategy, in which the premium revenue is evaluated against lower seat-mile costs.  It will be interesting to watch the results as Emirates implements its new A380 seating configuration, and whether this configuration spreads to other markets.

3 thoughts on “The 615-Seater is here

  1. Great news & Great step from both Airbus & Emirate, I am sure Emirate will be able to fill the planes if they decrease their prices to more reasonable level, specially as you said, the new arrangement for A380 will beat B777-300ER by 20% and also B777x.
    The question is there: is EMIRATE is willing to be more practical and decrease their level of prices. (I doubt) !!!!

  2. I would hate to be in the gate waiting lounge at KUL to get onto this thing. It would be the equivalent of catching the MTR in Hong Kong at peak hour. Not pretty, and who would want to start a flight where you are packed in like sardines being packed in like sardines at the airport? And then … the baggage carousel on arrival will be ugly. The whole flying experience is going backward. It is a race to the lowest common denominator.

  3. With the continued upward movement of each seat class except economy, the “business” class of these planes is equivalent to or better than First class was ~30 years ago. I doubt Emirates will regret leaving out first class on a fraction of their fleet.

    I’m surprised at the lack of premium economy, though. There’s a huge gap between a 17.5″ wide, 32″ pitch economy seat – an accommodation that isn’t too bad unless your flight is longer than 5-6 hours, as most A380 flights are – and a lay flat business class seat with business class cabin service.

    I would think that in between the passengers who always buy the cheapest tickets regardless of comfort and those willing to pay 4+ times the price for about 2 times the space (plus, of course, much better service, better food, and a significantly higher ratio of lavatories/passenger in that part of the aircraft), there’s got to be a sizable number of true middle class passengers – those with the disposable income to purchase better comfort without straying into the luxury level of business class.

    From the limited opportunities I’ve had to fly in premium economy seats, I’ve especially liked British Airways widebody version – where they not only give you 6in more legroom, but also remove a seat to make for 1in wider seats and aisles several inches wider – about 30% more total space, including a little more shoulder room.

    Unfortunately, it seems the typical 10-30% extra space seldom costs less than 50-100% more than a basic economy seat – you buy the equivalent of the upgrade from a Corolla to a Camry, but you pay the premium level of a Lexus ES.

    So in my opinion, the more airlines offering a premium economy, and the more competition to fill those seats at prices proportionate to what the nicer seat actually offers, the better. As is, most airlines don’t even give you the option of searching directly for prices on premium economy – the whole market segment is treated as an afterthought, despite the premium pricing.

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