Airbus A380 Challenge – Which Airlines Have The Most Spacious Economy & Premium Economy Products

My post on the Korean Airlines A380 coming to London gave me some food for thought.  While reading up on the various attributes of Korean Airlines’ version of the aircraft I came across this comment from Business Traveller:

What’s interesting is that Korean Air has the lowest seat count of any A380 operator [Technically incorrect as Singapore Airlines’ new A380s have just 379 seats – but that’s not an issue for now].

Its 407 seats are spread over first, business and economy, while the interior is quite roomy compared to other airlines’ A380s that accommodate another 100 passengers or more.

Air France’s A380, for example, seats 516 passengers over four classes, and British Airways’ A380 carries 469 passengers in four classes.

However, Emirates takes the biscuit with three different A380 configurations for 489, 517 or 615 passengers. The latter layout, a two-class 615-seat superjumbo, is now undergoing final flight testing by Airbus with planned service entry in December.

And this got me thinking. If there are so many different seat counts (and therefore densities) across different airlines’ A380 aircraft, some must afford passengers more space than others – possibly to quite a noticeable degree.

So I decide to check the seat pitches and seat widths of each airline that flies the Airbus A380 to see how they compare.

On the grounds that SeatExpert didn’t seem to be aware that Asiana and British Airways fly the A380, I opted to use SeatGuru for the numbers. Yes, I realize they’re not always the most accurate but it’s the best I have to work with so just bear with me.

Note: Some airlines fly A380s with more than one seat layout but this shouldn’t matter because, according to SeatGuru, all versions share the same seat dimensions.

Economy Class

I started off by looking at the Seat Pitch – the distance between the back of your seat and the seat in front of you.

Seat Pitch In order of best to worst (per SeatGuru):

Korean Air A380 Economy Class CabinKorean Air Economy Class Cabin A380 – image courtesy of wikimedia

Korean Air and Asiana were clear winners while Qantas, British Airways, Etihad and Lufthansa apparently have a “pack ’em in” mentality.

The second variable I looked at was the seat width. With airlines seemingly falling over themselves to squeeze more seats into a single row I was interested to see how this would play out.

Seat Width In order of best to worst (per SeatGuru):

Wow. That’s a lot of variation.

I never realized just how big the differences are between some of the carriers – they’re pretty significant.  if nothing else this has taught me to stay away from Lufthansa’s A380 Economy Class cabins if at all possible – it’s as bad as the American Airlines 777-300ER!

And take a look at Asiana. Assuming SeatGuru hasn’t made a mistake it has one of the best seat pitches (so it provides good leg room) but has one of the worst seat widths at just 17.2″.

I’m struggling to understand how airlines like Asiana and Lufthansa can offer such little seat width when they offer the same number of seats in a row as Singapore Airlines and Korean Air . What are they doing with the space? Something doesn’t add up.

Premium Economy Class

While there are 13 airlines currently offering flights on the A380 aircraft, only 5 airlines offer a Premium Economy product.

Seat Pitch In order of best to worst (per SeatGuru):

Hardly the most exciting set of results you’ll ever see – that’s about as uniform as it ever gets!

Qantas Premium Economy A380Qantas A380 Premium Economy Cabin – Image courtesy of Qantas

Seat Width In order of best to worst (per SeatGuru):

Still not an amazing amount of variation but you can start to see the differences between the airlines creeping in. Qantas looks tempting, Lufthansa does not.

Generating a ranking

To generate a ranking for the various Airbus A380 offerings I put together a basic scoring system:

  • Economy Class – Scoring for each category: Top ranked (13 points) all the way down to the Bottom ranked (1 point).
  • Premium Economy Class – Scoring for each category: Top ranked (5 points) all the way down to the Bottom ranked (1 point).
  • Where an airline is shown as having a range of seat widths, the lowest width is taken.
  • Add both scores together to get the final winner(s).

The Results

Economy Class

A380 Economy Class Rankings

Premium Economy Class

A380 Premium Economy Rankings

Conclusions

I’d be the first to admit that this isn’t amazingly scientific. I’m only looking at two variables (both to do with the seat) and I’m relying on SeatGuru to provide the correct figures…but it’s a starting point.

  • The clear winner from this test was Singapore Airlines – it came top in both cabins and you can’t really do better than that.
  • The clear loser was Lufthansa and I’ve made a mental note to avoid them if at all possible. No amount of good service, punctuality or great food (if they even offer any of that) can make up for having the narrowest seats in both categories.
  • Passengers in Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways Economy Classes have more seat width than passengers in Lufthansa Premium Economy.
  • The airline with the biggest difference in cabin appears to be Qantas. The economy cabin on the Qantas A380 is one of the tightest around but the Premium Economy product is one of the most spacious – a definite incentive to pay more to avoid the Economy cabin.
  • With Singapore Airlines we see the opposite scenario to Qantas. Singapore Airline’s Economy seat is already so wide that the Premium Economy seat only gains 0.5 inches. There is the expected increase in leg room from 32″ to 38″ but it’s still the airline with the least differentiation between the lowest two cabins (when it comes to seat size and space).

Naturally I’m not suggesting that anyone should be making a decision as to what airline to fly purely on these figures, but they’ve certainly opened my eyes to the differences between the various airlines. Not all Airbus A380 seating options are the same. In fact, they can be very very different.

Featured image courtesy of Airbus.

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