Boeing Vs Airbus the giants go head to head but who wins?

Firstly when comparing aircraft its important to know what do airlines want?

Due to the rising costs of Jet Fuel airlines are looking for three major selling points.

  1. Fuel efficiency
  2. Range
  3. Passenger/Cargo Capacity

In Addition the following also play a key role in what airlines buy.

  1. Aircraft cost
  2. Integration into current fleet.
  3. Usability on existing routes.

Firstly lets start by looking at the major selling points and how the two compare.

Boeing 747-8 and Airbus A380 are the largest two aircraft produced by both manufacturers, this means not all airlines will find a home for these in their fleets.

Fuel efficiency & Range 

Firstly the Boeing 747-8, Boeing states the 747-8 is more cost effective per seat per mile than any other aircraft in its class based on the following factors.

  • 3,000nmi trip
  • Standard Rules
  • 2014 US Dollars
  • Fuel Price of $3.00 per US Gallon
  • Three Class Seating

The Boeing 747-8 has a range of 7,730 nautical miles (14,310 km) or 4,120 nmi (7,630 km) as a freighter. Furthermore has the ability to carry 426,109 lb / 193,280 kg of fuel as a passenger aircraft or 400,218 lb / 181,536 kg as a freighter.

Air China 747-8i
Air China – Boeing 747-8i – Photography Courtesy of Boeing.

In Comparison how does the Airbus A380 compare?

Airbus claims “As the world’s largest and most efficient jetliner, it’s easy to see how the A380 alleviates traffic congestion at busy airports by transporting more passengers at the lowest costs on every flight.”

The A380 holds 253,983 kg (559 937 lb) of fuel this is just over 60,000kg more fuel than the 747-8i. The additional fuel is down to the sheer size of the A380 how does it compare on range. In Comparison the A380 boasts a range of 8,000 nmi (14,800 km)

ANA Airbus A380
ANA Airbus A380 – Photography Courtesy of Airbus

In Conclusion there is no clear winner when it comes to range in efficiency however the Boeing 747-8i edges ahead costing around 2% less per seat mile in comparison.

Boeing 747-8 performance figures
Data courtesy of Boeing.

Passenger/ Cargo Capacity

Firstly lets look at both aircraft as the passenger variants in a 3 class seating configuration as the A380 is not a viable freighter despite attempts being made.

First of all the Boeing 747-8i has a typical seating capacity of 410. In comparison the Airbus A380 has a capacity for 555 in a three class configuration.

The Exit limit or safe maximum capacity for the Boeing 747-8i is 605 and in comparison the A380 has 868. Due to most airlines using these aircraft you won’t find many if any with a full economy cabin.

in terms of payload for both aircraft the 747-8i has a capacity of 167,700 lb / 76,067 kg. Furthermore the Boeing 747-8 is also in freighter form boasting a payload of 292,400 lb / 132,630 kg.

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Boeing 747-8f Nose Loading – Photography Courtesy of Boeing.

In comparison the A380 can hold just a little more in terms of payload at 180,000 lb / 83,914 kg.

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Top Down View of Emirates A380 Cargo Configuration.

In conclusion if passenger numbers is at the top of your list there is no beating the A380 on capacity. In addition in passenger form it can also hold about 13,000 lb / 5,896 kg more than its rival the Boeing 747-8i

Other Significant Factors for Airlines

Firstly lets compare the cost of both aircraft. The Boeing 747-8i sells for $418.4 million USD as of January 2019. In comparison the Airbus A380 sells for approximately $445.6 million USD. In Conclusion if price is the important factor the 747-8i takes this by a small margin.

When it comes to aircraft on the ground size really does matter.

The Boeing 747-8i has a Length of 76.3 m / 250 ft 2 in and a wingspan of 68.4 m / 224 ft 5 in. In comparison on size the A380 is 72.7 m / 238 ft 6 in marginally smaller that the 747-8i. The A380 does have a larger wingspan that the overall length at 79.8m / 261 ft 10 in. In conclusion the A380 needs more space at already full to capacity airport due to its huge wingspan. Furthermore the A380 & 747-8 have special taxi charts due to their wing span.

A380Routings - Travel Radar - Aviation News
ICAO Chart Showing designated A380 Taxi Routes at Manchester Airport.

Finally lets look at usability on existing routes. Can Airlines really fill these planes to maximum capacity? The answer is yes. Some airlines such as Emirates can fill a typical 3 class cabin A380 on it’s busier routes however this isn’t the same for all routes & airlines. This does question the economical viability of high capacity airliners such as the A380 & 747-8.



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