Delta Air Lines Vs. the Airbus A380

Discussion in 'Delta Air Lines | SkyMiles' started by gregm, Oct 9, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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  2. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    DL detests large capital outlays and chooses frequency over capacity almost always. Thus very large aircraft such as A380 and B748 are not in their sights. No US carrier has been opting for those BTW, because they are optimized for very dense loads between capacity controlled airports. There really are not those situations in the US, even in slot-controlled airports. Even United, with the largest footprint in Asia, cannot justify those monsters. I'd be surprised were any US carrier to buy any of these. It could happen for freight probably, if the freight market recovers, but even that seems unlikely to me.
     
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  3. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    I agree. For me it's a novelty. Since I have airlines in my blood, (Dad is a retired TWA mechanic), and I've flown on every Boeing and Airbus passenger jet (besides the 747-8, 787 and A380), I have a 'need' to get on an A380, but just once! In January, I'm flying back with AF from CDG to JFK, just for the A380 experience. I'm flying business class, upper deck. (Delta, in their infinite wisdom, eliminated my original connecting flight (JFK direct to FLL) and substituted a flight that departs earlier than my JFK arrival, so I'm flying OTP-CDG-JFK-ATL-FLL. Ugh.)
     
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  4. DiverDave
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    DiverDave Gold Member

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    I agree. Everybody is in love with the very low CASM offered by the A380, but it's hard to maintain a high RASM (the other side of the equation) when you have so many seats to sell.

    David
     
  5. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    From a personal point of view I absolutely M besotted with the A380. I have flown in AF, LH, SQ and EK versions. For AF I have been in business twice, where I quite like row 61.
     
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  6. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    I've only done the A380 on LH, TATL in J. I'm not a fan, but it was much better than their old 747.
     
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  7. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    I'm in 61L !!
     
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  8. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    The only way I could see a US-based airline ordering the A380 would be if they were desperate to get a lot of people into a slot controlled airport (LHR, NRT, JFK, etc). And even then, how many planes would they need for a couple of routes, and would it even make sense to order only the small number of planes required for those routes? I doubt it.

    The 747-8 makes slightly more sense IMO, given the experiences the airlines already have operating 747s, but even then, their current wide-body strategies seem to be doing OK, so I don't really expect that to happen either.
     
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  9. BondAir007
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    BondAir007 Gold Member

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    DL is looking to test a A380 for route ATL-MCO/MIA/CUN for spring break '14. No seats... standing room only. ;)
     
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  10. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    The 748 also is the longest airplane ever so has handling issues complicated by that. Frankly, neither of them seems practical for US carriers.
     
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  11. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    AF CDG-JFK in business was an unpleasant experience. I must admit it was during the first few flights; And, it took over two hours to load this plane at CDG. Twice after that, I have actively avoided using the flight number using the A380. Once is enough:eek:
     
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  12. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    Boarding time improves with experience. (And yes, once is enough. I only plan to do it once.)
     
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  13. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    I have taken AF A380's a few times. The first ones, in Business, were during proving runs CDG-LHR and loading was slow. Later ones have been normal boarding times using three entrances. It has been very pleasant recently in La Premiere. The only negative IME is that the Business seats remained angled lie flat, having not yet been converted to full lie flat. AF is allegedly converting to fully flat seats on B777 and A380 in Business starting in January 2014. BTW, KLM is also making a similar conversion at similar timing. The latter makes me happy because I must complete my KLM house collection!
     
  14. DiverDave
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    DiverDave Gold Member

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  15. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Yup, but not because of handling issues or such. Quite frankly, the US model of multiple hubs and multiple frequencies to long-haul destinations makes the super jumbo market pretty much a non-starter. Lufthansa is the only carrier flying these larger planes with a multi-gateway model and they're not putting any of them in MUC; they're all in FRA where the main connections happen for intercontinental travel. Everyone else is a single gateway operation where massive numbers of passengers have no choice but to funnel through to get to the long-haul flights. And then there is Delta (or AA, UA and even US) where there are multiple gateways to choose from to get to where you're going. US-based carriers don't need to funnel everyone into a single gateway to fill up a super when they can operate multiple frequencies from multiple gateways and realize higher yields from premium customers who don't want to connect en route.

    It is a different business model here.
     
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  16. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    That's why I said it was the "longest airplane ever". That actually is not true since the A380-800 is 79.75 meters long, the freight-only AN-225 has a longer fuselage at 84 meters compared to the B747-8 at 76.3 meters. All of them require category V runway/airport facilities and enhanced separation from other aircraft. They're all magnificent technical accomplishments but that does not seem likely to translate into commercial success for any of them. The only one with very many sales is the A380-800 and it is receiving cancellations and new orders at the same slow pace. We shall see what will happen. The B747-8 has had a few freighter orders plus the LH order and a few others while the A380 still has EK as the largest taker by far with SQ and a few others seeming to find them practical.
     
  17. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Yes, handling issues!

    Mostly not in the air, but on the ground. Both the B747-8 and the A380-800 require enhanced separation in the air to avoid wake turbulence for small aircraft. That is the major air handling issue. I did not refer to piloting characteristics in which the A380 is very easy and the B747-8 is almost as easy to handle (this according to LH pilots who've flown both). However, both of them require major changes in some runways due to weight restrictions and to taxiway clearances for avoiding FOD and collision with ground objects. Further both require major gate improvements in order to meet emplanement and deplanement standards, as well as clearance for passing aircraft because of their extreme length.

    The high cost of infrastructure for supports these monsters has resulted in reluctance for several airports to make the investments to support limited use, not to mention the increased customer servicing issues when 500 or so passengers come out of a single aircraft. Several airports taht EK, LH and SQ (among others, I suspect) have wanted to use they cannot because of ground handling issues. Were the airport and terminal facilities adequate LH and EK would be operating A380's to GRU, so they both have said locally. A quick look at US airport preparedness shows that there are only a half dozen airports now capable of handling these aircraft and that even among those the handling capacity is quite restricted due primarily to lack of terminal infrastructure, primarily gates.

    Finally, servicing these monsters also requires hangar modifications, mechanic training. (most airplanes can be handled on the ground by properly trained mechanics. As the B787 ground issues illustrate, unusual aircraft require unusual training, and Boeing itself has shown how their own people did not initially understand how to treat the B787. Ground servicing and handling requires special cranes and scaffolding to deal with the unusually large dimensions and new materials (eg Glare, li-ion, etc). These are other very crucial handling points that apply more to the giants and/or brand new technologies than they do to other aircraft. These are major reasons why the A350 has been more conservative in design than have been the B787 and A380.

    Don't understate these issues, please. They are crucial parts of the economic equation that drives choices to less demanding aircraft. There is a massive body of evidence regarding these especially in the MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) press.
     
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  18. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Those issues all matter. But the inability to fill the planes at a reasonable fare level is more significant IMO.

    The US airports which see A380 service are hubs for US carriers. They could do it if they wanted to. They don't.
     
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  19. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    I suspect all these issues are cumulative. Unless there is a compelling need for extra capacity it makes little sense to make many millions of dollars in investment for a tiny number of movements. I ague that these issues may even outweigh capacity needs in much the same way that it took two decades to popularize GPS precision approaches because few airlines were prepare to invest in upgrades. The so-called 'free flight' that would allow approaches to be made without rigid predetermined processes due to complementary equipment in all aircraft operating in the area suffered similar decades of delay for similar reasons. Even Mode S transponders, not individually expensive, because nearly obsolete before being adopted due to capital constraints. Finally, airliners still communicate with ATC through VHF radio. Why? Too much investment by too many people.

    Any time a new aircraft/technology has unusual support requirements service entry becomes very difficult and conservative airlines simply do not take the risk. Even if they could fill every seat in a B747-8 or A380-800 US airlines will not hazard these risks, not for only an extra 100-150 passengers when they've the A350-1000 and B777X to choose from taht will not have these impediments.
     
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  20. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    In particular it is the need to fill them year-round that is the problem. They A380 may work during the summer travel season and at Christmas when it can be filled at acceptable fares. The problem is where to operate it during Sept 15-Dec 15 and Jan 15-April 15. You can't park it for 6 months of the year. The U.S. airlines would rather operate a 77x or 33x or 78x which they can fill year-round, even if it means they are not meeting all demand during the summer and Christmas.
    E.g. UA would rather fly daily doubles or more on smaller aircraft - which they can curtail during weak periods - and rotate aircraft through heavy maintenance. E.g. SFO-FRA is 2 x 744 during the peak and shoulder seasons, but soon reduces to 1 x 744.
     
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  21. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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  22. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Interesting use of the word "sees" in that headline. More like "hopes for" but I suppose it is not completely inappropriate.

    That doesn't sound like much fun at all.
     
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  23. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    Heck, why not go all out and produce a 12-abreast configuration 3-6-3? (On the main deck).

    The A380 program is going to fail because the 77X and A350 are economically more attractive, and it's easier to be profitable year-round at smaller sizes, when you aren't flying empty seats during shoulder and low seasons. The A380 was a miscalculation by Airbus, predicated on slot-constrained airports and higher demand than exists today. The reality is that at slot-constrained airports, more traffic becomes O/D, and connecting traffic routes elsewhere plus the long-thin routes overfly them.
     
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  24. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    That is partly true, but also a major factor is that there are so few airports equipped to handle either the A380 or the B747-8. I know that is dismissed by many because the primary discussion is about loads. Just think about the freighter issues. Both of these aircraft were expected to have great success as freighters, but have not, because at least one end of many major freighter destinations cannot handle the aircraft and is loath to make the infrastructure investment to do so.

    The B777 freighters that are so successful and the MD11, B747 ones that have been so far all can operate within established infrastructure. The B777X will be intriguing because to be usable for the highest volume sales for freighters it cannot be stretched so much that it triggers an aircraft category change. If either the A380 or the B747-8 could manage to avoid those restrictions they'd have a far easier job making sales, even though the passenger versions would continue with gate constraints and apron problems.
     
  25. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    There is zero question about your basic comments, but I'm still not positive that to A380 will have failed. I agree that the odds favor your position, but there remain a fair number of destinations that are just now installing capacity for the A380/ B747-8 which may open new opportunities for sales. A current example is GRU, where AF will operate A380 from May and LH will operate B747-8. What I do not suggest is that either one of these programs will end out recouping all the development costs. I do think they'll possibly manage operating profits on sales. For both the challenges are A350-1000 (and the unannounced larger version) as well as the B77X. The latter will kill the B747-8 almost without question because of similar capacity with vastly better maintenance and operating costs not to mention modern architecture. FWIW, the B77X is planned to be essentially the same capacity as the B747-8 not smaller. It will be successful because it will have huge range with full loads and operating economics very attractive.
     

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