11:44 AM

Paper or Plastic?

We all know about the Piper vs Cessna rivalry, and Ford vs. Chevy is always a big source of arguments too. Packers vs. Vikings will get blood boiling in the Land of Brats and Beer, but if your business is selling (or buying) extremely big jetliners, these may all pale when compared to Airbus A380 vs. Boeing’s 747-8 Intercontinental.

We read everywhere that Airbus customers are growing weary of delays in the A380 program:

Aero-News recently reported that many A380 customers are getting antsy. Emirates – by far the largest A380 buyer, with 45 jets on order – considers the delay "serious." The company is now "reviewing all its options," according to Emirates president Tim Clark
Airbus parent company EADS has taken a hit in their stock prices too, dropping a reported seven-percent in the markets Wednesday. Meanwhile, Airbus acknowledged Tuesday it's likely to get worse before it gets better. Translation: they are in it deep and are scrambling to build the behemoth on any kind of timely schedule.

Meanwhile, Boeing says this about their entry: The 747-8 Intercontinental will provide 450 seats and an 8,000 NM range. It will provide lower trip costs and nine percent lower seat-mile costs than the 747-400, plus 21 percent greater cargo volume.

When you fly the heavies, operating economics are king, and the 747-8 will offer clear improvements over the A380, so says the boys and girls of Everett. The 747-8 is more than 10 percent lighter per seat than the A380 and is projected to consume 10 percent less fuel per passenger. That translates into a trip-cost reduction of 21 percent…this is huge.

But if I were the guy making the decisions on which one to fly, this may well be the deciding factor:
The 747-8 Intercontinental can use the existing infrastructure and ground equipment at most airports worldwide, while the A380 – with its significantly taller airframe – demands that airports re-configure jetways and ramp areas to accommodate the Airbus.
I’ve never been able to jump on the A380 bandwagon. Maybe it’s because I cannot possibly jump that high.

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