As big as the Airbus A380 is, its impact in the U.S. market will be muted for the first few years simply because there won't be a lot of them flying here. In fact, to date no American carriers have even ordered the plane.
The impetus for the A380 really rests with other markets and the real impact will be felt where the plane is configured like a giant bus to carry up to 850 passengers. Which speaks to its purpose: To provide major point-to-point, global, long-haul flight capacity.
Still, the A380 is scheduled to fly into L.A. starting in November, and LAX had to make a host of airport alterations to accommodate the mammoth jet. Among these changes was extending and hardening runways, expanding gates, and modifying departure control systems to handle the flood of passengers boarding from or disembarking into the terminal.
One of the benefits of the A380 is that since more passengers can be carried on one flight, fewer flights are needed to a destination. Therefore, it will open up more gates, and, in turn, invite more competition, which is good for fliers. Also good is that with a greater number of passengers carried per flight, greater efficiencies in fuel consumption result.
On the other hand, consolidating seat capacity into one big plane also consolidates the schedule, meaning fewer schedule options for fliers.
Qantas is doing the first flight into LAX, and one factor that will smooth introduction of the new plane into a new market is that Qantas will be using the most-advanced departure control system technology. This new-generation technology will enable the airline to streamline its operations, including easing seat-swapping, expediting boarding, and more easily reaccommodating passengers if flight schedules are disrupted.
So, the story of the A380 isn't just the technology that made it possible, but the technology that the airport and the airline have to adopt to take full advantage of everything the A380 has to offer.
The immediate impact may be limited, but as more A380s take to the air, you will begin to see a demonstrable improvement in efficiency and customer service across airlines and at airports that are flying the super-jumbo.
Airline Futurist • Miami • www.us.amadeus.com