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Sun, Oct 28, 2007

A380 Configuration May Not Be As Green As You Think

Luxury Cabins Mean Fewer Pax Seats

As passengers experience the luxury of the new Airbus A380, they may also be contributing to a larger carbon footprint than the company claims. The culprit is the way the aircraft are fitted, that cuts down on the amount of passengers per flight.

Airbus says that the carbon emissions of just 75 grams per passenger per nautical mile is - 17 per cent less than is emitted by the old Boeing 747s, makes the aircraft more environmentally friendly, the according to the Telegraph.co.uk. Airbus' calculations assume that the aircraft will have 525 seats and fly full. In theory, the A380 can hold 853 economy seats. But, airlines are adapting the design to expand profitable first- and business-class sections, leaving fewer economy seats. By doing this the passengers' environmental footprint will grow.

Singapore Airlines' aircraft made its first commercial A380 flight this week with 471 seats across three cabin classes. Emirates and Qantas will fly with as few as 489 and 450 seats respectively on some long-haul routes. Boeing's new long-haul 747-8, can hold 467 seats across its three classes.

"We anticipate that 525 seats will be about the average," said an Airbus spokesperson. The manufacturer expects some airlines will operate at higher seat counts. Most long-haul flights are rarely more than 80 per cent full, adding another factor. One in five seats on Singapore or Qantas international flights were empty, according to the story. During 2006, almost one in four seats on Emirates planes went unoccupied.

With fewer seats and planes not full, journeys on the A380 will actually produce more carbon dioxide (per passenger, per mile) than Ryanair or EasyJet flights, which fly fuller. When operating at 80 per cent capacity, a Singapore Airlines A380 will produce about 101 grams of CO2 emissions. Emirates and Qantas A380s will produce 106 grams and 109 grams respectively in their smaller configurations. This compares with an average of 97.5 grams for EasyJet and 98.6g for Ryanair. An Airbus spokesman said that comparisons to the short haul airlines were not comparable, as they produce far less carbon due to shorter engine burns.

The 787 Dreamliner, which will be launched next year, is expected to improve with lower exhaust emission levels. Aircraft manufacturers and airlines need to develop a common approach to measuring exact emissions to enable consumers to differentiate between airlines on the basis of carbon impact, according to a spokeswoman for the Carbon Neutral Company.

Airbus says that better efficiencies will bring down fares on long-haul flights. "The A380's efficiency and advanced technology will result in a 15 to 20 per cent lower seat-mile cost for the airlines," said an Airbus spokesman. It too early to tell as Singapore Airlines confirmed this week that those using its first class suites would pay 20-25 percent more (and business class passengers 20 percent more) than on previous aircraft.

Economy fares, the airline said, would depend on sales. The airline claims that the price increases reflect the higher standard of service and better facilities on board the A380. Qantas and Emirates have yet to announce their fares.

FMI: www.airbus.com, www.epa.gov/otaq/aviation.htm, www.chooseclimate.org/flying/mf.html

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