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Airbus A380: How the airlines compare

Published: 31/08/2013 - Filed under: News »

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Business Traveller brings you the definitive guide to how the airlines are deploying their A380s. (For our guide to Boeing Dreamliner operators, click here).

British Airways became the tenth carrier to take delivery of an Airbus A380 in July 2013, the first of 12 superjumbos that it has on order.

A second A380 was delivered in August, and BA launched superjumbo services to Los Angeles on September 24 - to read Tom Otley's review of the carrier's First class offering on the aircraft, click here, and for a review of BA's Club World product on the A380, click here.

BA will roster the superjumbo onto its Hong Kong route from October 22, and is set to take delivery of a third A380 before the end of 2013.

BA's A380 layout features 14 seats in First on the main deck, followed by 44 Club World seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, then 199 World Traveller economy seats in a 3-4-3 layout (to see a seat plan, click here).

The upper deck features a further 53 Club World seats in a new 2-3-2 layout, followed by 55 World Traveller Plus seats also configured 2-3-2, and then 104 World Traveller seats in a 2-4-2 layout.

BA A380

Thai Airways received its first A380 in September last year. It now has four superjumbos in its fleet with two more on order and scheduled to arrive later this year.

Last October, Thai Airways' inaugural A380 entered service between Bangkok and Hong Kong. The airline now also flies A380s to Singapore, Frankfurt, Narita and Paris.

In July 2013, the carrier postponed its A380 service to London by 11 months until October 30, 2014, citing "important technical modifications" (see online news, July 2).

Its superjumbos have 507 seats and are configured with 12 seats in Royal First Class, 60 in Royal Silk business class and 435 in economy.

First and business class cabins feature fully-flat beds, and all passengers benefit from AVOD in-flight entertainment systems, individual power sources, and wifi internet and mobile phone access.

Thai Airways A380

Malaysia Airlines took delivery of its first superjumbo at the end of May 2012, before putting it into service on the flagship London-Kuala Lumpur service that July. For a review of the carrier's inaugural A380 service from London Heathrow, click here.

The carrier has six A380 aircraft on its roster after taking delivery of the 100th Airbus superjumbo in March.

It operates the double-decker on three routes from Kuala Lumpur - double daily to London Heathrow, and a daily service to Hong Kong and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

MAS had originally planned to offer a premium economy cabin on the aircraft (see online news, January 2010), but eventually opted for a three-class configuration, with eight first class and 350 economy seats on the lower deck, and 66 fully-flat business and 70 economy seats on the upper deck.

Malaysia Airways A380

China Southern became the first Chinese carrier to take delivery of an A380 aircraft in autumn 2011.

It now has five superjumbos, but operates them mainly on domestic routes - Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong - out of Guangzhou due to a dispute with Air China over flying the A380s from the latter's Beijing home.

As a result, China Southern has lost money on its A380s and only flies to one international destination, Los Angeles, although it has announced plans to fly the aircraft to Sydney from October.

The carrier configures its superjumbos in a three-class layout, featuring eight first class seats, 70 business class seats and 428 economy seats. 

China Southern A380

South Korea's flag carrier Korean Air took delivery of its first A380 in May 2011 and, the following month, put the aircraft into service on routes from Seoul to Tokyo and Hong Kong.

The carrier was the first airline to dedicate the entire upper deck of the aircraft to business class, with 94 Prestige sleeper seats in a 2-2-2 configuration (see online news, January 18). However, SIA has subsequently also launched a second A380 configuration with an all-business class upper deck on its new A380 deliveries (see online news, May 2011).

The upper deck of the Korean Air superjumbo features an onboard bar and lounge area for business and first class passengers, with smart blue and white seating, a flatscreen TV and bar area.

The lower deck features 12 first class and 301 economy seats, making a total of 407 on board the aircraft, the lowest number of seats for any A380 operator so far. SIA will offer 409 seats with its new A380 configuration.

Korean Air also offers an inflight Duty Free "showcase" at the back of the lower deck, occupying a space equivalent to 13 economy seats (see online news, April 18).

Korean Air A380

Lufthansa A380

It's not the first time that an A380 operator has opted to use some of its precious onboard space for something other than seating – Emirates has showers in its first class cabins, while Qantas has a lounge area for its premium passengers located at the front of the upper deck, Air France has a digital gallery also at the front of the upper deck, and Singapore Airlines famously offers double beds in first class.

Having two full passenger decks has given A380 operators plenty of scope in terms of aircraft configuration, and as you can see from this table each carrier has opted for distinct layouts.

The only constants are the presence of an economy cabin on the lower deck (albeit in some cases in conjunction with a smaller economy cabin on the upper deck), and all airlines have opted to place business class on the upper deck. However, British Airways has bucked this trend by splitting its Club World cabin between the upper and lower decks.

Lufthansa has ten A380s in its fleet after officially joining the superjumbo club in May 2010, launching its maiden scheduled flight from Frankfurt to Tokyo the following month.

The German carrier deploys its A380s between Frankfurt and six destinations - Houston, Johannseburg, San Francisco, Tokyo, Beijing and Singapore. From September 2013, a Lufthansa superjumbo will also serve a seventh city, Shanghai.

Each aircraft is in a three-class configuration accommodating 526 passengers. On the upper deck, there are eight First Class seats in the front cabin in a 1-2-1 layout, followed by two cabins containing 98 Business seats in 2-2-2.

Economy occupies the entirety of the main lower deck and seats 420 across four cabins in a 3-4-3 configuration. Only Emirates has a larger number of economy seats, with 427.

Seats in First and Business are equipped with AC power ports while economy seats come with USB ports and iPhone chargers.

Each bed in First measures 207cm in length, and 80cm wide and has an adjustable privacy screen. Meanwhile, "sound-absorbing carpets" eliminate the noise of footsteps and the lighting system automatically adjusts to the time of day. Business seats are lie-flat with a slight downward slope.

Air France took delivery of its first A380 in October 2009, becoming the first European carrier to add the superjumbo to its fleet.

In November that year, it launched its maiden A380 passenger flight from Paris Charles De Gaulle to New York.

Air France A380

Qantas A380

AF now has eight A380s, out of 12 ordered from Airbus, and flies to six destinations - Johannesburg, Los Angeles, New York, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington DC - on three continents.

From September, an Air France A380 will serve Shanghai with three weekly flights from its CDG hub.

The 516-seat aircraft houses nine first class (premiere) passengers, 80 in business (affaires), 38 in premium economy (premium voyageur) and 389 in economy (voyageur).

First class is on the lower deck in a 1-2-1 configuration; business is in two cabins on the upper deck in 2-2-2; premium economy is on the upper deck in 2-3-2; and economy has 46 seats on the upper deck and 343 on the lower deck, mostly 3-4-3.

In September 2008, Qantas became the third airline to receive the A380 and now has 12 of the superjumbos in its fleet with a further eight on order.

It deployed its first A380 on its daily Melbourne to Los Angeles route in October 2008. Qantas now also flies the A380 between Sydney and Hong Kong, between Melbourne and London via Dubai, between Sydney and Los Angeles, between Sydney and London via Dubai.

Until July 2013, the airline operated the superjumbo in two configurations - the first, now withdrawn, seated 450 and had four cabins with 14 first class suites, 72 business class seats, 32 in premium economy and 332 in economy.

Qantas was the first airline to include a premium economy cabin on an A380.

The second, and now only, configuration seats 484. Fourteen first class seats are located on the main lower deck at the front of the aircraft in a 1-1-1 layout. Behind that, there are 341 economy seats split across three cabins and mostly configured 3-4-3.

A further 30 economy seats are located at the back of the upper deck. In front of this area is premium economy, with 35 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration.

The rest of the upper deck is made up of two business class cabins, both configured 2-2-2 and seatign a total of 64 passengers. The first cabin has three rows and the second has seven with two further pairs of seats on each side at the front.

There is also a self-service bar area and, right at the front, a lounge area with sofa seating for five people.

Emirates A380

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Access all areas: Take a virtual tour of the Emirates A380 with Google Street View

The airline most committed to the Airbus superjumbo — by far — is Emirates, which has 37 A380 aircraft in its fleet and a further 54 on order.

The Gulf carrier unveiled its first, long-awaited A380 in July 2008 and flew its debut flight to New York the following month.

Now the airline flies the superjumbo to 23 destinations including London Heathrow, Los Angeles Rome, Moscow, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Auckland.

In the coming weeks, this A380 route network will be extended to Mauritius on December 16 and Zurich from January 1.

Emirates operates its A380s in two configurations. The first has 489 seats 14 in First Class, 76 in Business and 399 in Economy.

The second, denser configuration is deployed on long-haul flights. It has 517 seats, with 14 in First, 76 in Business and 427 in Economy.

In both configurations, First and Business are on the upper deck, while economy is on the main lower deck.

On the upper deck is the Onboard Lounge, where First and Business passengers can enjoy a drink. All of the airline's A380s are fitted with wifi.

In January 2013, Emirates opened Concourse A, the dedicated home of its A380 fleet and the world's first purpose-built facility for the aircraft at Dubai International.

Back in October 2007, Singapore Airlines was the launch customer of the A380, launching the jet's first passenger service between Singapore and Sydney.

The airline, which remains the second largest superjumbo customer after Emirates, has 19 of the superjumbos in its fleet with five more on order.

SIA operates its A380s on double daily flights to Heathrow and Sydney and daily flights to Tokyo Narita, Paris CDG, Hong Kong, Zurich, Melbourne and Los Angeles, as an extension of its Narita service.

SIA A380

It also deploys the A380 on its Singapore-Frankfurt-New York JFK and Singapore-Hong Kong-San Francisco routes between December 28 and March 31 — the rest of the year the routes are served by a B777-300ER.

SIAs A380s can seat either 471 passengers or 409, depending on the configuration.

When seating 471, the aircraft's lower deck has 12 first class suites - designed by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste - in a 1-2-1 layout and 311 economy seats in 3-4-3. The upper deck has 60 business class seats in 1-2-1 and 88 economy in 2-4-2.

The airline's newer 409-seat configuration is the same, apart from the upper deck is all business class, seating 86.

Which deck and what class?

As detailed above, the carriers disagree on the best place for their first class cabins, with Emirates, Lufthansa and Thai Airways opting for the upper deck, and Qantas, SIA, Air France, Korean Air, China Southern, Malaysia Airlines and BA all choosing to locate their most premium seats on the lower deck.

It should also be noted that both Emirates and SIA have more than one configuration for their A380 aircraft.

In the case of Emirates, the carrier has a 489-seat layout which includes a crew rest area at the back of the economy cabin, necessary for its longest flights served by the superjumbo, whereas routes to the UK, for instance, use A380s without this crew area, meaning there are an additional 28 economy seats in the cabin.

In terms of economy, Korean Air has the fewest seats at 301, followed by BA at 303, SIA's recent configuration at 311.

Qantas, Air France and BA are the only three A380 carriers to offer a premium economy cabin.

Emirates' A380s, which are configured without the crew rest area, have the largest economy offering at 427 seats, followed by the Lufthansa aircraft at 420 (all on the lower deck).

Air France has the most seats overall at 538, some 131 seats more than the Korean Air 407-seat layout. But all of the current capacities will pale into insignificance compared to the 840-seat layout planned by Air Austral (see online news, January 2009).

Forthcoming A380 operators

  • Air Austral
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Skymark Airlines
  • Transaero Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Useful links and have a wealth of information on the airlines currently operating A380 aircraft, from images and videos, to seatplans and flight reviews.

Here are just a few links for each A380 carrier which you may find useful - for a full list of all A380 articles published by Business Traveller, including new routes and product information, click here.

For a table showing the seating layouts on the lower and upper decks and across all classes for each A380 operator, click here.

Air France

British Airways

China Southern


Korean Air


Malaysia Airlines


Singapore Airlines

Thai Airways

Graham Smith


poisonedcabinair - 20/05/2010 14:11

As ever its Emirates (along with LH) who go for the mass density seating in Economy ...... another good reason to choose a different airline especially on the long haul routes! An airline with ever declining standards ........

thomasb - 24/05/2010 12:20

Hi Mike,

I really can't see any difference in the economy layout of the five carriers?! I don't get your point... .

Andhdfjsa - 12/05/2011 11:02

Not that it matters - but I would just point out that the area used for the EK shower, LH first bathroom, QF lounge and AF gallery thing cannot be used for seating due to exit rules anyway... So actually, KE is unique is actually giving up seating space for a totally different idea (though I doubt it will last long)...

Goldcardsaplenty - 12/05/2011 11:48

I still think that Emirates use of space at the rear of the upper deck to provide a bar is an excellent inovation. It really does ease the pain of a long flight to go and have a drink/nibble/chat with other passengers.

GordyUK - 19/05/2011 12:47

I agree with goldcardsaplenty.

Having been fortunate enough to fly EK First, the showers are incredible. For the life of me I cannot understand why AF would waste this space with an online gallery?! WTF? Who the he'll wants that?

Also the business and first class bars are brilliant

YOMAMASOFAT - 10/08/2011 20:59

When Etihad gets their A380s, their seats in all classes wil become greater then ever (I have flown all three), especially business class. I

nathanBAGOLD - 03/01/2013 14:24

why BA stuck to its cramped 8 & 7 across in biz class, beats me. it was time they joined the big boys with an all new biz class.

BBFLYER - 03/01/2013 15:30

Once again it seams BA have totally missed the point of luxury travel in there CW seating on the A380

Freedom1 - 14/07/2013 19:05

Once again have to point out... QF now only operates one configuration which has 371 seats in economy. I have no idea what it will take to get BT to get this information correct !

GrahamSmith - 15/07/2013 08:34

@Freedom 1 "I have no idea what it will take to get BT to get this information correct." Confirmation, and not a denial, from the airline.

Freedom1 - 16/07/2013 00:34

Graham... Im not sure why but this topic has me like a dog with a bone now !
I have an email from QF as part of my job at LHR received about 2 weeks ago now, clearly stating and confirming as i have been saying all along, that all of their 380's in current operation are now all the same config of 14/64/35/371. Im happy to forward that to you in private... more than anything now to 'clear my name' and not have you or anyone reading think that i'm some nutter who is making things up !


GrahamSmith - 16/07/2013 08:32

Hi Freedom1,

If you could do that, it'd be appreciated. It's not that I don't believe you, but I can't change our guide(s) on the say-so of an anonymous contributor when Qantas maintains two configurations are still in operation.

I'll email them again today.



GrahamSmith - 17/07/2013 16:00

A spokesman for Qantas has got back to be to say the airline "anticipates all of the A380 to be reconfigured some time this month". They were unable to provide an exact date at the time of writing.

I'll update the Qantas section of this article by the end of the month.



ArunRajagopal - 30/08/2013 16:00

Hi Graham -
Emirates took delivery of their 36th A380 yesterday, should you wish to update the fleet count.

GrahamSmith - 30/08/2013 16:11

Thanks. I've updated the story.


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