Airbus looks to fit more passengers on to the A380

The world's largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, is offering to reconfigure its economy cabin layout to squeeze in more passengers.

Tweaks to the superjumbo design would create an 11th seat to some rows, with 5 people instead of 4 sat in the middle section.

Airbus says the design will mean economy, or coach, can be split in to three different pricing sections.

"Airbus' ability to offer efficient choice for Premium Economy and Economy extends also to A380, with new options at nine-abreast and 11-abreast respectively," said the planemaker in a statement.

Airbus says even within an 11 seat row, each passenger should manage to keep an 18 inch width seat.

A new A380 seating configuration will create a middle seat in the middle row
Courtesy: Airbus
A new A380 seating configuration will create a middle seat in the middle row

Further options are being looked at to increase the seating capacity of the A380 including reducing the stairs and removing some sidewall stowage on the upper deck.

Airbus said any refreshed layout would be for an airline to determine rather than for Airbus to impose.

According one media report, the European consortium forecasts a revamped A380 layout would generate an additional US$23 million in annual revenue for an airline flying the superjumbo.

Waning interest

The planemaker may slow output to an assembly rate of the A380 to 1.7 aircraft a month from 2017, according to a Reuters report published in April.

Part of the original attraction of the huge plane, which can seat over 800 passengers, was its cost-per-seat mile (CASM).

But the firm has been struggling to maintain interest in the superjumbo as smaller, twin-engine planes are now able to cope with longer-haul flights.

This has meant the CASM advantage of the A380 has eroded.

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Emirates is by far the largest operator of the A380 and has called on Airbus to do a better job of marketing the plane to rivals.

And UBS aviation analyst Charles Armitage told CNBC in November that the days of the A380 could be numbered.

"We believe that Airbus needs to make a decision soon – either re-establish the cost per seat advantage of the A380 (probably through a neo version, perhaps with a small stretch), or risk closing the line," he said.