Emirates A380s to Establish New Airliner Seat Record

Emirates A380s to Establish New Airliner Seat Record
Emirates Airlines will operate some of its Airbus A380s in 644-seat configuration but for longer flights it will also operate A380s fitted with 514 and 489 seats. (Image credit: Emirates Airlines)

EmiratesAirlines will set a new record for passenger seats fitted in an airliner whenit starts operating some of its Airbus A380 superjumbos with 644 seats.

Althoughthe A380 has been reported as seating 555 passengers in typical three-classservice, this is 8-13 seats short of the 563-568 that Japan Airlines and AllNippon Airways have long provided in specially configured, single-class Boeing 747SRsand 747-400Ds. For 33 years JAL has operated these 747s on short-hauldomestic trunk routes ? Tokyo-Sapporo being the busiest ? and on 3-hour Japan-Guamflights.

It hasalways been clear that if an airline were to operate an A380 inall-economy-class service, the aircraft could seat as many as 850 people. Noairline has confirmed yet that it will do so. But now Maurice Flanagan, vicechairman and president of the Emirates Group, has revealed some of the 47 A380sthat his airline has ordered will operate with two-class cabin layouts seating644 passengers.

Emirateshasn?t yet confirmed whether these two-class A380s will feature first-class orbusiness-class cabins along with economy-class seating, said Nigel Page, theairline?s senior vice president of commercial operations for the Americas.

However, inan article filed from the International Air Transport Association annualmeeting in Vancouver at which Flanagan revealed Emirates? A380 plans, GulfNews reported the carrier?s two-class A380s would only have business-classand economy-class seats installed.

The airlinewill operate these A380s within the Middle East ? on high-traffic routes such asDubai-Jeddah ? and on routes to the Indian subcontinent, said Page. They won?toperate on flights lasting much longer than 3 hours.

Economy-classpassengers in Emirates? 644-seat A380s will be just as comfortable as in any ofthe carrier?s other aircraft, added Page. ?We?re not trying to cram people in.We?re a high-quality airline and we wouldn?t do anything less than the standardwe have now,? he said.

?I don?tthink, given the size of the airplane, that it?s going to be an unreasonableaccommodation,? said Perry Flint, editor-in-chief of airline industry trademagazine Air Transport World.

?It?s goingto be a little cozy,? added Flint. ?But if the price is right, people will flyit ? it?s that simple. You know what they say: If you can?t knock the price,don?t knock the service.?

Emirateshasn?t said yet how many seats it will install in each row of its A380s?economy-class cabins. The A380?s maximum cabin width is 21 feet 7 inches, some20 inches wider than its nearest competitor, the Boeing 747.

The Boeing747 commonly seats 10-abreast in economy class, each seat being 18.5 incheswide and each row of seats configured in a three-four-three layout around thetwo passenger aisles. Some A380 operators might choose to use the aircraft?sextra cabin width to install an 11th economy seat in each row,configuring each seat row in a three-five-three layout. Today?s Boeing 777soften two-five-two seat configurations in their economy-class cabins.

Increasingthe maximum seating inside an airliner from the 434 seats that Emirates offerstoday in some of its Boeing 777-300s to 644 in some of its A380s representsmuch less of a capacity leap than when the first Boeing 747s began operating in1969, said Page, a veteran of British Airways? predecessor BOAC.

Then,capacity made a ?huge leap? from the approximately 150 seats installed in eachBoeing 707, Douglas DC-8 and Vickers VC-10 that previously represented thestandard equipment on long-haul routes to the 325-350 seats with which each 747was fitted, said Page.

But whenEmirates introduces its two-class A380s, the capacity increase compared withits next-largest aircraft will be less than 50 percent, he said.

Most ofEmirates? A380s are likely to feature far fewer seats than the 644-passengeraircraft it will use on shorter, high-density routes. Flanagan revealed in Vancouver that the airline will offer two other seat configurations in its A380 aircraft,which Emirates bought primarily for long-haul and very-long-haul services.

On verylong nonstop flights, such as services linking Dubai with New York, Melbourne and Sydney, Emirates will operate three-class A380s seating 489 passengers, saidPage. On flights linking Dubai with destinations such as London, it willoperate A380s seating 514 passengers in three classes. The carrier hasn?t yetrevealed the numerical breakdown of first-class, business-class andeconomy-class seats for each of these A380 configurations.

Emirates iseasily the biggest customer to date for the A380. Next is Australia?s Qantas,which so far has confirmed orders for 20 aircraft. Not coincidentally, Qantasregards Emirates as a very serious competitor on its key ?kangaroo route?one-stop services linking Australia?s three largest cities with London and major Western European destinations. Both carriers are certain to operate A380son these routes.

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Chris Kjelgaard has more than 40 years of experience writing about and consulting on the civil aviation industry, aerospace and travel. He was a senior editor of Aviation.com from 2007-2008, and now works as a freelance writer and consultant in the aviation industry. He holds a B.S. in genetics from The University of Edinburgh.