The Airbus A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner manufactured by European manufacturer Airbus. It is the world’s largest passenger airliner, and the airports at which it operates have upgraded facilities to accommodate it. It was initially named Airbus A3XX and designed to challenge Boeing’s monopoly in the large-aircraft market. The A380 made its first flight on 27 April 2005 and entered commercial service on 25 October 2007 with Singapore Airlines. The A380’s upper deck extends along the entire length of the fuselage, with a width equivalent to a wide-body aircraft. This gives the A380-800’s cabin 550 square metres (5,920 sq ft) of usable floor space, 40% more than the next largest airliner, the Boeing 747-8, and provides seating for 525 people in a typical three-class configuration or up to 853 people in an all-economy class configuration. The A380-800 has a design range of 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km), serving the second- and third-longest non-stop scheduled flights in the world (as of February 2017), and a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (about 900 km/h, 560 mph or 490 kt at cruising altitude). As of April 2017, Airbus had received 317 firm orders and delivered 210 aircraft; Emirates is the biggest A380 customer with 142 ordered of which 94 have been delivered. In mid-1988, Airbus engineers led by Jean Roeder began work in secret on the development of an ultra-high-capacity airliner (UHCA), both to complete its own range of products and to break the dominance that Boeing had enjoyed in this market segment since the early 1970s with its 747. McDonnell Douglas unsuccessfully offered its smaller, double-deck MD-12 concept for sale. Roeder was given approval for further evaluations of the UHCA after a formal presentation to the President and CEO in June 1990. The megaproject was announced at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show, with the stated goal of 15% lower operating costs than the 747-400. Airbus organised four teams of designers, one from each of its partners (Aérospatiale, British Aerospace, Deutsche Aerospace AG, CASA) to propose new technologies for its future aircraft designs. The designs were presented in 1992 and the most competitive designs were used.
In January 1993, Boeing and several companies in the Airbus consortium started a joint feasibility study of a Very Large Commercial Transport (VLCT), aiming to form a partnership to share the limited market. This joint study was abandoned two years later, Boeing’s interest having declined because analysts thought that such a product was unlikely to cover the projected $15 billion development cost. Despite the fact that only two airlines had expressed public interest in purchasing such a plane, Airbus was already pursuing its own large-plane project. Analysts suggested that Boeing would instead pursue stretching its 747 design, and that air travel was already moving away from the hub-and-spoke system that consolidated traffic into large planes, and toward more non-stop routes that could be served by smaller planes. In June 1994, Airbus announced its plan to develop its own very large airliner, designated as A3XX. Airbus considered several designs, including an unusual side-by-side combination of two fuselages from its A340, the largest Airbus jet at the time. The A3XX was pitted against the VLCT study and Boeing’s own New Large Aircraft successor to the 747. From 1997 to 2000, as the East Asian financial crisis darkened the market outlook, Airbus refined its design, targeting a 15–20% reduction in operating costs over the existing Boeing 747–400. The A3XX design converged on a double-decker layout that provided more passenger volume than a traditional single-deck design, in line with traditional hub-and-spoke theory as opposed to the point-to-point theory with the Boeing 777, after conducting an extensive market analysis with over 200 focus groups. Although early marketing of the huge cross-section touted the possibility of duty-free shops, restaurant-like dining, gyms, casinos and beauty parlours on board, the realities of airline economics have kept such dreams grounded. On 19 December 2000, the supervisory board of newly restructured Airbus voted to launch an €8.8-billion programme to build the A3XX, re-christened as the A380, with 50 firm orders from six launch customers.
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