Mega-cities myth

You’ve probably heard the argument from Airbus that mega-cities will fuel greater demand for the A380. To put it simply, they claim very big cities need very big airplanes to deal with all the passenger traffic.

Here’s one more example of why that theory doesn’t add up.

Tokyo is a HUGE city. Its metro population (about 36 million) is larger than the entire population of Canada (about 35 million). Tokyo is served by Haneda and Narita airports. It should be the classic example of the Airbus mega-city theory.

But the A380 only flies in and out of Tokyo with a whopping 6 flights per day.

On the other hand, the 787 is being used for about 150 flights per day in and out of Tokyo. In fact, 11 airlines are flying the Dreamliner on 49 unique city pairs.

The chart below shows that Northeast Asia’s airports have seen continued growth, driven by new markets and more frequencies. Over the past 10 years, the number of destinations has soared—while the average seats per flight dropped (meaning smaller airplanes are being used instead of very large ones).


In today’s world, travelers are demanding more frequency with more point-to-point options. And that’s exactly what the 787 delivers.

Comments (10)

Tim K (Ont Canada):

Wait a minute!.. Your chart is very simple and can be interpreted in many ways. You need to supply more data to say that VLA are useless. These numbers could come from the fact that single aisle planes have exploded in numbers thus driving down the seat/plane average. Also There is a shift from higher density widebody planes to ones with more business and premium class seats that are more profitable but reduce the seat count. You should also report on what % of widebody and single aisle planes are there today compared to 2005 . There will be a change in numbers!

Also there will obviously be more 787 flights as there are far more 787 operators than A380 ones in the Asia Pacific region.
I think you need to dig deeper into this to prove your point...

Manos (Greece):

Still looking for what they 're trying to say through this theory... Do they really hear what they say? On the other hand, not they only evolve the A350 variants, but A330neos are on the way too, both with equal -if not better- range performance.
About A350 is OK, they needed sthg to compete with Dreamliners and -later- 777-8s. The A330neo? Such a "production orgasm" in 250-350 seat category from Airbus that doesn't much to the above theory...
Can anybody help me with their train of thought?
By the way, it's the 2nd time they try so hard to confuse me...! (The 1st was the parallel "hit" with A330s and A340s in the -200 & -300 variants).
And now sthg that makes sense: 737, 767, 777, 747. A total market cover!

Manos (Greece):

P.S.: The right order in my previous post: 737,787,767F,777,747. I forgot the Dreamliner, so I deserve a fair trial!!!

V V (Montréal, Québec):

This is a very interesting subject and most probably would trigger a lively discussion.

I also asked the question about aircraft size several years ago. The question was, "Bigger or Smaller?" (click the link)

It was posted in my blog back in July 2010.

Joe K. (SF. CA):

This has been a fascinating development in passenger traffic trends. San Jose and Oakland, whose "international" status usually just meant Canada, Latin or South America, are fast becoming viable alternatives to international travel across the Pacific and to Europe.

ANA, Hainan and soon British Airways...BA!...are flying into SJC while Norwegian has a flight out of OAK all with the 787!

The A380 might very well be useful in accommodating passenger numbers on some heavily traveled routes, (which makes it a super niche aircraft) but the 787 is effectively opening up routes to and from destinations that had never been served before! More options/frequency for us, the traveler, is a VERY good thing!

Andrew Boydston (Boise ID USA):

The Airbus simplistic theory of big goes with big, fails to acknowledge the world's largest animals eat only miniature Krill. Know as "The Blue Whale". A more intense study limits the provision of large airports matching with other large airports is narrow in scope for the already over taxed such as London Heathrow. No more A-380's please its gridlock here with our millions of people!

Airports have become air-locked by real estate availability except in a few places in the world such as the Middle East. Imposing manufacturing will on the market place is very bad advice. Building airplanes for existing and future markets is very wise. You can't manufacture more space in a high density market. All an innovator can do is fold-up its wings and then place four hundred people comfortably going anywhere in the world on just two engines of pure efficiency. It's simple Airbus, don't drink your arrogant Kool-aid then call it "Build it Bigger and They Will Make Space".

George M (Long Island, NY):

I don't think that airline passengers have ever NOT preferred point-to-point service over hub and spoke service. For example, I occasionally visit a close friend who lives outside of Phoenix. There is no question that I would rather have a direct flight from New York to Phoenix as opposed to having connect to Phoenix via either DFW or ORD, especially when weather shuts down either of these hubs and backs up flights all across the nation. But as so often happens in the oligopoly-dominated commercial airline business, consumers' preferences have increasingly been ignored in the airlines' never-ending quest for greater revenue and profits at their customers' expense. One can only hope that the airlines will at long last take note of the data you have so convincingly presented and use the 787 to give their customers a break and once again make flying an experience to be enjoyed rather than dreaded.

Norman Garza (Long Beach, CA):

Also Boeing proposed the NLA similar to capacity to the A380 and the 747-600/700X in the nineties but fortunately these projects became cancelled with the Asian Economic Crisis that happened over a decade ago. The A380 with it's size, expense
and airport retrofit projects has costed airlines, municipalities, and states millions and millions. I cannot imagine more sales of the A380 to additional airlines, private or state owned.

Cristiano Arruda (Campo Grande, MS, Brazil.):

The reality is crystal clear. Although the A380 fits some routes pretty well, but this doesn't mean a demand for hundreds of routes as it means for the 787. The 767 role still is a strong example seen in the USA. Most of international US originated flights are performed with 767, 777. Even the so American styled 747 is reserved for some routes, not all of them. Also another characteristic weighs in favor of Boeing Aircraft: speed.

With tail wings all the Boeing wide body jets fly even faster than the Airbus jets, mainly when the A380 comes to the figures. I have learnt of the 747-400 flying over 1,200 Km/h. Depending on the winds, the 747 can save 1-2 hours of flight duration compared to the A380. The same happens to the 777. Above here the Aeroméxico 777-200ER can fly over 1,250 Km/h. The A350 nose section has a big mistake of design, and the wing profiles of the A330 seem to be better designed than the recently launched A350. Shame! Boeing has the best design standard for wings. The result is always higher speed.

Although the A380 is an incredible aircraft, but it has some limitations that would make me think of it in forth place after the 747-8i, 777-X, and the 787-9. In terms of size and speed, the 747-8i comes in the first place, it flies faster. And this is interesting for me: efficiency, performance, more than a bit more of fuselage width with an eternal 890-900 Km/h speed anyway.

Freddy Hagens (Kirkland, WA):

Great facts and data Randy!

Post a comment

We welcome your comments. However all comments are moderated and may not post immediately. Offensive or off-topic comments will not be posted. We will not treat any comments you submit as confidential information. Please do not submit comments that contain any confidential information belonging to anyone else.

By submitting a comment to Randy's Journal, you agree to our site terms and privacy policy, and to having your name displayed with your comment. All or part of your comment may be posted or cited in the blog. Your name and personal information will not be used for any other purpose, and we will not publish your e-mail address.


More posts