Saturday, January 15, 2005

The super-jumbo era arrives

Jan 13th 2005 From The Economist Global Agenda

Airbus is set to unveil a double-decker passenger jet that it hopes will repeat the success of a vehicle that is every bit as iconic: Boeing’s 747. The European consortium’s A380 super-jumbo, which is to be formally unveiled at a lavish ceremony on Tuesday January 18th, will break the 747’s longstanding monopoly of the big-jet market when it enters service in 2006. Everything about the new plane is big, from its capacity of 555 paying customers and range of 15,000km

Airbus thinks an extra 16,600 new large planes (over 100 seats)—a doubling of the number of passenger aircraft currently flying—will do the trick, and expects that the average number of seats in aircraft will increase by 20%, to 215. By contrast, Boeing expects sales of 18,600 slightly smaller planes.

Airbus is hoping that the A380 will help it retain the lead it gained over Boeing in 2003, when, for the first time since the European consortium emerged as a rival to Boeing in the early 1970s, it delivered more aircraft than its American competitor. Airbus, to Boeing’s extreme displeasure, kept the number-one slot in 2004 by delivering 320 planes compared with 285 from its rival

Some 1,400 747s have been sold to date. However, only 15 were delivered last year. And as the jumbo has aged, Boeing’s domination of the commercial airways has foundered.

Boeing’s latest attempt to put things right, the 250-seat 7E7 “Dreamliner”, is born out of a belief that passengers will demand, and future deregulation allow, a big increase in “point-to-point” travel: direct flights between small and medium-sized cities .... The A380, by contrast, is designed to fly between big hubs.

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