Getting better all the time

We’re making a lot of progress on the flight test program for the 747-8’s Performance Improvement Package (PIP). We’ve flown 218 hours since testing started in May, and expect certification and deliveries starting in the fourth quarter of this year.


This 747-8 Intercontinental takes to the skies to test a performance improvement package.

With the PIP, the 747-8 will see a 1.8 percent improvement in fuel burn— saving our customers approximately $1 million annually in fuel per airplane. We’re also planning more weight reductions —and two to three years from now we’d like to increase the Intercontinental’s range to 8,200 nautical miles. Click here to watch a video on the PIP testing.

While we continue to invest in 747-8 improvements, it seems the competition is more worried about our advertisements. This week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK dismissed a complaint from Airbus that had to do with a recent 747-8 Intercontinental ad.

In that ad, we laid out the clear advantages our airplane has over the A380. After the complaint, we defended our position and supplied plenty of material to back it up—and the ASA concluded that our 747-8 stats were well-substantiated. We stand behind the ad and the analysis we put into it 100 percent.

It’s no secret the large airplane market segment is pretty tough at the moment—and there’s no doubt that our ad hit a nerve. So far in 2013, Airbus hasn’t booked a single firm order for the A380. In fact, the last A380 order from a new customer was more than a year ago.

Since then, we’ve booked five firm orders for the Intercontinental (along with seven firm orders for the 747-8 Freighter), while Korean Air has agreed to purchase five Intercontinentals.

While they worry about ads in Toulouse, we’ll stay focused on our sales campaigns and making the 747-8 even better. After all, the proof is in the performance.

Comments (28)

Pete (UK):

Wasn't the ruling that those who would purchase an airplane or read that magazine would have all the facts about costs anyway and not base it on an advert in a magazine, rather than the claims made by Boeing being proven to be true?

Bob (Sacramento, CA):

This ad business, in my mind, boils down to Airbus is scared and just trying to smear Boeing. It appears that Airbus is now behind again in the futures race. It was probably a stun to them, after applauding the problems with the 787-8 early on, when the 787-9 was built so soon, the 787-10 is on its heels, and the announcement of the 777-8, -9 and possibly a -10. Airbus has only one answer to all of these aircraft and that's the A350. All their eggs are in the same basket as when they developed the A380.

Too bad the ads are getting negative instead of promoting their aircraft on its own merits. Oh wait, they don't have much to promote.

Go Boeing Go

Jose Andreas (Mockba Rossiya):

Except Doric has signed an MOU for 20 A380s and Lufthansa is ordering another two A380s - they operate 747-8Is too. So do Korean Air for that matter. And the pitch used on your ad was horrendous. 39" pitch for business is so fake do not even try.

Norrie Donnachie (Dublin, Irleland):

It's a sure fire sign that things in-house aint good when the focus is on the competition and not your own strengths.

Boeing and Airbus should think about that! Focus on your products and dont allow the Chinese, Brazilians, Canadians or Russians move in!

Justin Kutzner (Germany):


I do find it interesting that you claim the Boeing 747-8i to be such a great aircraft, but Boeing was only able to secure 40 orders for it since it was launched. Even though the Airbus A380 is such a terrible aircraft (your opinion), I wonder why it has sold roughly 6,5 (262) times more than the Boeing 747-8i. And you might be correct that Airbus was not able to secure any orders for it within the past year, but Boeing only got five. This in my eyes is not a huge success either. And just by this comment, the whole article seems childish and not very scientifically proven. I mean come on, trying to pretend that five orders is a huge success in comparison to zero orders. But keeping the backlog in mind, that just sounds like a big joke. And wasn’t it Boeing, which reduced their production rate just recently on the 747-8? But I guess when you show this article to all the CEO’s out there, you will get your order books full in no time. What I’m trying to say is, that nobody buys or orders an aircraft based on a blog or ad in some kind of magazine. This just seems like, if my product is not selling well, I just bash on the competitor. How embarrassing and immature. And furthermore the ASA did not say “and the ASA concluded that our 747-8 stats were well-substantiated“, they actually said „we concluded that the ad was not likely to mislead" because "the intended audience would understand that the comparisons were based on modelling and assumptions". There is quite a difference.


bill1942 (Texas):

If it's not Boeing, I'm not going.

Frederick Corbin (Saint Lucia):

Way to go Randy, that's the spirit, tell em like it is. Sometimes you just have sidestep diplomacy and hammer the truth home.


Angus Clarke (London, United Kingdom):

I have run some independent analysis and like products from both Airbus and Boeing. Both manufacturers make economic and safe aircraft.

However, on the above topic, there is no doubt in my mind that the B747-8i has better economics than the A380-800. And on a total unit cost basis, including ownership costs, maintenance, fuel burn, crews in a OEDC country cost base, ground handling and even corporate overhead allocation, everything you can think of, the B747-8i is between 7% and 9% more efficient.

The 7% comes from a like for like three class layout where the cabin revenue ratios are the same i.e. if 30% of rev comes from business class then it must be the same on each aircraft to be a fair comparison. The 9% more efficient benefit comes from when you say, lets put the same premium configuration on the B747-8i and shrink economy class because we have a smaller plane. In that situation, i.e. 70J on both the A380 and B748, the B748's economics widen considerably.

Honestly, its probably greater than 9%. If the anti B747 believers don't agree, simply look at the MTOW of the A380 versus the B748. The A380 is 25% heavier on MTOW but only carries between 15% to 18% more pax revenue. Finally, B747-8i is a longer plane, probably carries more freight revenue too.

So readers think I am objective, I love the A330-200/300 and think the A320 family is very comfortable to travel on. So I am an Airbus fan too. But I looked at the hard numbers and in this case the B748 wins.

There only two reasons I can think of as to why Boeing isn't selling more B747-8i aircraft (1) airlines don't want big planes anymore (which is very bad for the A380) and (2) a large number of airline managers simply haven't done the analysis (that is a real possibility too).

Melanie Kreis (Berlin/Germany):

Dear Randy,

looking at the ad I do not really get your logic. Why does seat counts? Why these different pitches?

If a A380 transports 5 elefants and a B748 transports a few million grashoppers, I would assume the Boeing doing better on a per animal basis.

Is this the logic your are so proud of?

V V (Montréal, Québec):

You said, "It’s no secret the large airplane market segment is pretty tough at the moment"

If I am not mistaken, around 500 passenger version 747-400 were delivered. Most of the 747-400's role has been taken over by the 777-300ER. the latest data suggest that there are more than 700 orders for the 777-300ER (click here).

There are rumors that you will launch the 777-9 in the coming months. Well, you know better than I do about the veracity of those rumors.

So, while I sincerely think there is a market for very large passenger aircraft like the 747-8 Intercontinental and the A380, I do not think it is an easy market and it may not be a big market as some people suggest.

As a conclusion, perhaps we can say that the (very) large passenger airplane market segment will remain tough forever. It's not very pretty.

Capt. L. Bear (Dundas, Ontario Canada):

Couldn't agree with you more. We all want to hear good news about fuel efficient craft and I expect that the 748 sales will advance once airlines realize its true economic and customer satisfaction potential. Airbus' tactic seems motivated by 'something' other than their regard for integrity in advertising.
Capt. L. Bear

Mark (Los Angeles, CA):

The 747 is still the most graceful looking plane in the sky. The fact that Boeing continues to invest and improve on this 40+ year old design speaks volumes.

Frank (Portland, OR):

Wow, congratulations to EADS.....oops, I mean Airbus. Since that big white elephant was launched in 2000 they've "Sold" 262 units! Does that number including 2 for Air Austral, 10 for Hong Kong Airlines, 5 for Kingfisher, 6 for Skymark, four foe Transaero 6 for Virgin and 1 for Prince Alwaleed ? I can see John L's nose is getting longer and longer.........and longer

Anton (Washington DC):

It is easy to manipulate numbers and 'proof' that X is better than Y and vice versa. Randy however compares apples with oranges by comparing unequal seating arrangements. The sales figures speak for themselves. It is a tough market but the A380 got three-quarters of the total VLA market of pax planes sold. A new 777-9 will kill whatever life was left for the 748. I have flown both A380 (3 times in both Y & C) and 748 (3 times in both F & C) and the A380 was soo much more comfortable from a pax perspective. Try it and experience it for yourself(and stop using this silly nationalistic nonsense).
The A380 is the future.

Capt Robert Troxel (Chicago Illinos):

The flying cattle car known as the A380 is difficult to board quickly, make customs clearance slower, and slows the baggage claim process. The 747-8 is longer, faster, and proven. Don't get me started on the 380's aluminum wiring! Boeing had it right to improve the winner they have instead of clean sheeting another mega transport no one really wants. You have to consider the 747-8 Freighter in this argument as this is where the demand really will substantiate the overall production

Tim (Baltimore, Maryland ? ):

Randy ? More weight can be shaved off of the 748-8I.
All things on a plane ad up in terms of weight and no one thing should be over looked at all.
Engines ? who needs engines, just joking Randy.
Those window shades ? how many and how much weight would it shave off if you were to put those electronic windows on the 747-8I as the 787 electronic window shades.
Randy ? the empty area below the cargo hold floor ? what is used there or is that area empty ? could extra fuel tanks be installed there ? .
Randy ? I believe ? the 747-8I could be made to go 8500NM and to dream 9000 NM ? is not impossible.
I don't know if this can be done or not but with the higher thrust engines is it possible to run only 2 engines at cruse than 4 or have some computer software to trottle back engine use on 2 engines while at cruse than 4 engines at cruse.
Ad in the sales campaign the area above the crown as a area after reaching cruse as a lounge area at no extra cost to sell the plane.
Is there any reason why the whole tail of the 747-8I can't be made out of composite materal ?
How about non-load non structural load partitions in the interior ? make them out of some honey comb plastic covered cardboard type of partion board covered with a thin layer of laminate.

checklist (Soisy, France):

Congratulations to Boeing for this victory!

Airbus does always deserves not of their leave the floor when they are wrong. Actually they would do better to make ads rather than attack Boeing in the silly and childish by exposing the 737 with a nose of Pinocchio. We will not forget the famous "4 engiens 4 long haul" for those who remember...

Then, they are washing their hands by taking advantage of the problems with the 787. I do not understand how Airbus' s fans their grant of credibility

No merit for Airbus/John Leahy ...
Go Boeing Go!

Frank (Austin, TX):

Surely the best thing to do in these situations is to take Lufthansa's seat plan and operate from that. My understanding is that they carry 526pax on the A380 and 388 or 362 on their 747-8Is. That is a realistic application and should provide the "apples for apples" comparison that would make common sense to all.

In this realistic example, the A380 can carry 138 extra revenue earning passengers but of course the 747-8I is much lighter and hence will burn less fuel etc. My assumption here is that the airline would use similar pitches in the different classes though am sure matters such as these can be factored in with the overall calculation.

It just seems to me that with both Boeing and Airbus using different assumptions on seat pitch etc., how can you expect a true comparison. With business and first classes offering greater pitches in reality, should this not be reflected in the assumptions both manufacturers make?

AR (Newcastle, WA):

The only justification for the A380 is "mine is bigger than yours". It is not economy, speed, comfort or reliability.

Andrew (Boise, ID USA):

I really enjoyed your journal and all the responses contained herein. So I now can weigh-in, yeah! Once in awhile a violin, a concert or aircraft is created that transcends time and cultures. The 787-8i keeps coming up in conversations and gains an appreciation as the new kid on the block (A380) is making its reality check through customers. The bean counters will catch-up to the bean counters. The one reason A380 couldn't make it as a freighter, is that its Empty weight is flown everyday, regardless of payload. The 747-8F is better suited aircraft. The market looked at it and said no. Possibilities relating the A-380 swooned the world for its passengers. Passengers bought tickets by the bucket loads out of curiosity and bragging rights. However, the virtuoso is getting its strings tune for the concert, the 787-800i. If you complain about something, its ether
jealousy or a reality. Airbus took it to court, and Boeing was found guilty of the "reality", that the 747-800 is a virtuoso performer and Airbus is guilty of Jealousy, "busted".

Now about the Jumbo Market, what do you about that A-380 that an airline makes monthly payments, when an the Queen of the skies flies over? Play the tune "Cry Me A River".

Mokong dLeon (NZ):

Go Randy go!

It's my opinion that the A380 got more orders than the 8i because it arrived earlier and with non regular fliers wanting a different flying experience, then initially, it got high load factor and of course positive feedbacks. This must have influenced the market for jumbo planes.
the 380 does have major structural wing problem and incident with its engine, which fortunately, not well publicised compared to the 787s woes. These while the 8i arrived overweight and have problem with possible flutter concern in its rear wings and not meeting its promised fuel burn efficiency.
Its good that they, Boeing, are still trying to meet the fuel burn number through PIP and working on the flutter concern so that they can meet the target flying range once the can utilize the fuel space located at the rear wings. I believe that the 8s will ultimate be at par in sells volume, or even surpass the 380s unless the 380s will be improved also.

Norman (Long Beach, CA):

Airbus lost in a European court, how embarrassing. What more do they want, Airbus already dominates the fleets of many European flag carriers. Airbus is desperate to sell more A380 for break even but sadly the 747-8 Intercontinental is not selling well. I think the 777-9X will prove a stronger case against the A380 as with the 777-300ER as it can carry the advances of the international first class zones. The VLA market is very limited.

Rene Abad - PlaneTalks blogger (Camiling, Philippines):

The B747-8 is more efficient than the A380 because it has newer wings, engines, avionics and fuselage material.

The most telling figure is the empty weight per passenger ratio. The 748 wins because the 380 is optimized for a larger version design. The present version of the 380 carries a bigger and heavier wing than it needs.

I don't know if the 380 will ever break even but the 748 will be a long term success as a freighter, going back to its roots as a C-5 Galaxy competitor.

A-man (European Union):

I think one forgets one thing in the VLA market, which is delivery time. How long waiting time is it if you compare the -8i and the 380 if you order today?

Tom (Lewisville, Texas, USA):

Interesting comments regarding the comparison between the two aircraft, but those who disparage Boeing's numbers should also consider the entire flight cost. There is more than just the ability to put more passengers on the airplane and the potential revenue. One of the previous comments indicated a 7-9% advantage to Boeing, and that is probably a fair comparison. I too like the Airbus aircraft, but I think in this case advantage Boeing.

The reason that the A380 has done so well is it does attack a problem that is especially apparent on certain routes - a dearth of landing slots. if you're restricted on landing slots, then anything that allows you to put more passengers through the same landing slot makes a lot of sense. As one captain noted earlier, it does put extra strain on things like customs clearance, passenger boarding and deplaning, and the like.

I am fascinated by the aircraft market in general, and these two companies in particular. Their products are engineering marvels. However, I do believe its a sign that a company is running out of creative energy when it chooses to litigate rather than innovate (consider the case of Apple). For that reason, advantage Boeing.

Marc A (near Kennedy Airport) (Springfield Gardens, NY):

I've always been fascinated by aircraft for most of my life (particularly the large ones) and now I'm seeing more drama with Boeing and Airbus going at it with the A380 vs the 747-8.
Love to see both planes, however for a while; I've always had concerns with the specs/weight of the A380 - not to mention that Boeing had some issues with the 747-8. Emirates in particular seems to like the A380 and comments like it 'sips fuel' is in question.
My take is the Airbus A380 appears to be grossly overweight and overhyped in the press. Also the 747-8i - working with improvements and to get a much lighter frame will be better and will garner more interest from airlines (even though the large airplane market is slow).
Finally, AIRBUS needs to stop crying being a sore loser.

Boeing 747-8 Fan (Hong Kong):

Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the Boeing 747-8, but I guess the airline managers do make educated decisions, and that's why the A380 is selling more units.

I am really curious as to the efficiency of the 747-8 and thanks to your blog this seems to have given me interesting details around it.

You claimed, according to the ad, that the 747-8 had total CAROC of $238,200 for that 6,000m trip, while the A380 has a CAROC of $301,000 for the same. As Lufthansa operates both aircraft, I have used their seat configuration for comparison. Lufthansa has two versions, and the version with a total of 386 pax (and not the 362 pax version) seems to be the one to use for comparison reasons. The A380 carries some 526 pax at Lufthansa. Both aircraft have around 20% of business class seats, making it comparable.

With these numbers, the CAROC per seat shows an advantage of 7.8% for the A380. I hate to admit it, but that seems to be the reason why the 747-8 is difficult to sell. Possibly on an overall cost basis including capital costs, the 747-8 might do better though.

I'd love to see the same cost comparison including a 777-300ER and later on even with the 777-9X.

Ory (Toronto):

Korean air just got one today . Tail number HL7638 .CHEERS .

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