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What is the technical, mechanical and economic feasibility of using the Airbus A380 for short haul flights of under 4 hours in its 800 plus seat configuration? I'm talking about cost and economies of scale, frequency of repairs and service etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Since the A380 is extraordinarily large, only very large airports can handle it. The smaller regional airports can't, so it doesn't make any sense to serve anything other than international airports. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Nov 6 '17 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ The hard part is to gather enough passengers and get them on and off the plane quickly. For a town with a population of tens of thousands of people, there's just not enough traffic. But A380 did fly between Paris and London for a while, which although is international, is quite a short flight. $\endgroup$ – user3528438 Nov 6 '17 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ I can’t find it now, but I know we had a question on large vs small airliners and fuel efficiency. The numbers show that smaller airliners are a lot more fuel efficient than large ones. The large ones only made up the difference by carrying enough fuel to fly long distances at cruise altitude. So it requires a very long flight for an A380 to even approach the efficiency of four flights in A320’s. It was mentioned that being one reason the A340 was discontinued because it rarely flew long enough to compete with the A330 $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Nov 6 '17 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ Lufthansa is currently missing 30 rented Air Berlin planes and also the landing slots are problematic. The situation will not be become better till next year, when the get legally access to bought planes and slots from the bankcrupt Air Berlin. So in the meantime Lufthansa has started flying with the B747-400 (not the D-Version) in roughly 1:10 from Frankfurt to Berlin. $\endgroup$ – Peter Nov 7 '17 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ I just read that the Lufthansa has started a regular B747 service Frankfurt-Berlin, a flight of around one hour. The reason is that the significant carrier Airberlin has gone out of business, and a lot of that traffic was picked up by Lufthansa. The B747 is used as a means to increase throughput. The planes are not refueled in Berlin, the standing time is only 50 minutes. They can also not -- what is the term? -- dock at a terminal due to their size; passenger exit via stairs onto the tarmac. $\endgroup$ – Peter A. Schneider Nov 8 '17 at 19:22
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I can't say if anyone has looked at a short-haul version of the A380, but we can look to the Boeing 747-400D for comparison.

In addition to removing the wingtip extensions and winglets as described in the Wikipedia article, a friend at Boeing described to me other changes needed. Boeing beefed up the wing box due to the increased landing cycles. There were also some changes to the brakes to improve cooling as the short flights didn't provide adequate time to cool the brakes passively.

It should be noted that ANA was the only customer with 19 aircraft built. They retired the last of them 3 years ago. So it would appear that there isn't much of a market for a short haul jumbo.

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  • $\begingroup$ I once flew on a Korean 747 on a short-haul from Seoul to Jeju, both South Korea. Flight duration: 1h 10 min $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Nov 6 '17 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ @DohnJoe Yes, but which 747? The 747-400D is a very specific model. $\endgroup$ – T.J.L. Nov 6 '17 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ I have to look it up, it has been a while. Currently Korean operates [Gimpo Intl. (GMP) to Jeju Intl. (CJU)] a 737 on seemingly lighter days, and a 777 (772 - BOEING 777/200) on seemingly stronger days. $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Nov 6 '17 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ It was indeed a 747-400 (aircraft type 744), in the other direction it was a 737-900 (aircraft type 739). The flights were taken in 2013. $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Nov 8 '17 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @DohnJoe But where did the flight go after Jeju? A lot of times there's a short hop to help fill the plane for a long leg that follows. I once caught a Pan Am 747 from LAX to SFO for a cheap price. Most of the LAX passengers and all the SFO passengers were headed to Japan which was the plane's next stop. ANA was using the 747-400Ds for nothing but short hauls. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Nov 8 '17 at 13:44
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Last year, Emirates started a flight between Dubai and Doha, only 235 miles (378 km) apart and the flight lasted 40 minutes. The flight is cancelled now, because of rather political reasons.

Compared to several other airliners (Boeing 787), A380 is less fuel efficient. The fuel efficiency of B787 is 102 mpg per seat, compared to A380 is 74 mpg per seat. The maximum seats Emirates offer on A380 is 615. At present, Emirates does not have a B787, but B787's seating capacity is around 300, when classes are implemented.

Taking the example of people traveling between UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and Doha, there is a very high demand. A single flight of A380 is more fuel efficient than two flights of B787, when a single A380 is carrying almost twice as many passengers as B787. If there is a demand, economy is better.

When a single aircraft flies instead of two, it will also decrease congestion, at the airports, and in the airspace.

However, when A380 is used on smaller routes as opposed to longer ones, it will increase its cycles faster.

Simply comparing fuel efficiency can be flawed (noted in this answer) as different phases of a flight cost different.


Emirates also operates other smaller routes besides Doha.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm confused. The 787 has a better mpg per seat and yet the A380 would be more economic? And the A380 does not decrease congestion compared to smaller wide body airlines, thanks to its massive wake turbulence. $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Nov 6 '17 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ "When a single aircraft flies instead of two, it will also decrease congestion, at the airports, and in the airspace." Unless the single aircraft requires special taxiways, special gates, and increased separation due to both massive wake turbulence and an unusually low approach speed. $\endgroup$ – reirab Nov 6 '17 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Sanchises I share your confusion: mpg/seat is a clear measure; the more efficient plane transports the same number of people more efficiently as far as fuel is concerned, no matter how many flights are needed. $\endgroup$ – Peter A. Schneider Nov 6 '17 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ The shortest regularly scheduled flight now of the A380 is the Kuwait - Dubai route; having flown this many times, it must work for Emirates as the flight is always full (at least on the lower deck). $\endgroup$ – Burhan Khalid Nov 7 '17 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterA.Schneider, fuel consumption for aircraft is not so simple, because it depends on the leg distance and other factors. If somebody quotes simple numbers, they have pulled them from thin air and are quite likely comparing apples to oranges. And then fuel is not the only cost. There is landing tax and traffic control tax and crew salary and maintenance and amortization and one flight with larger aircraft comes ahead of two flights with smaller in these. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Nov 7 '17 at 19:56
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Sure can. There are number of airlines on the Pacific rim areas which use 747s as puddle jumpers, making multiple short hop flights and the jet, simply because there is so much passenger travel between destinations there that an airplane like a 747 all of a sudden becomes useful for that purpose. It’s not unreasonable to think that in the near future past your demands in that region could potential he make an A380 configured for 700-800 seat cabin arrangements a feasible option here. I don’t know if structural reinforcement here would be needed as the above poster stated, primarily because the aircraft would take off with only a fraction of the fuel on board that without an intercontinental flight. 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of fuel would be useful on such routes, not the 380,000 to 400,000 pounds of fuel typically carried on a long transcontinental route.

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