Emirates has announced that it would begin deploying a new seating configuration on its flagship A380. The new aircraft cabin configuration, capable of seating 615 passengers would be the largest yet among all in-service A380s and is set to enter operation on the Dubai – Copenhagen route this coming December. To date the route had been operated by a 777-300ER. The new aircraft variant dubbed Ultra High Density had been up to 3 years in the making, and follows on the two previous cabin configurations spread among the currently 60 aircraft-strong A380 Emirates fleet.
The third A380 variant to fly with Emirates
Emirates was the second carrier to operate the Airbus A380 type right after Singapore Airline with first service taking place on the Dubai – New York JFK route on August 1st 2008. The present day fleet had combined 2 variants: the Long Range A380 variant with a 3-Class cabin configuration that accommodates 517 passengers and the Ultra Long Range A380 aircraft capable of carrying 489 passengers. Both variants had retained a nearly identical 3-Class cabin albeit for an entire section of 28 Economy Class seats that had been removed from the main deck aft section on the Ultra Long Range aircraft. These variations had made possible for the carrier to flexibly assign aircraft giving priority to seat count vs range.
The most seats in the sky
The newer version targeted by the carrier for medium range service operation had been in the making for a few year while initially targeting a 2-class cabin arrangement that could accommodate 604 passengers. With 615 seats; 58 Business Class seats plus 557 in Coach, the final product has been made possible by both eliminating the 14 First Class cabin suites and also reducing the Business Class seat count from 76 to 58. On the two previous variants, the carrier had elected to have an all-premium seats upper deck together with a bar, leaving the main deck to full Coach.
This upper deck premium arrangement has been partly maintained; the bar has been retained there where it is paired to the flat bed Business Class seat.
Full utilization of available space on the main deck has permitted 427 Economy seats to be available. Additional space freed up on the main deck, from the removal of the First Class Suites and the smaller Business Class now permits to fit some 130 Economy seats right behind the Business Class section.
In comparison to other A380 operators, the new Emirates 615 seating capacity variant will only be challenged by up and coming Russian carrier Transaero once deliveries of its 652-seats A380s begin later this year.
For Emirates which has plans to operate up to 140 A380, the pace does not seem to be slowing. The Emirates Dubai hub has efficiently linked travelers to any point on the planet via a single stop. To that end the carrier has skillfully leveraged Open Skies agreements to build up direct long haul routes to and from Dubai. First using smaller A330 to build up demand, incrementally replacing the A330 with its workhorses Boeing 777-300ER while simultaneously adding frequencies before finally pushing the surging traffic to the Super Jumbo A380.
The recipe seems to work: while the Copenhagen A380 route will be flown once daily, the carrier is set to launch a second daily A380 service flight linking Gatwick. Beginning October 1st 2015, Zurich will be bumped from 777-300ER service to A380 service.