Airbus A380 – one big yawn?

I like my aircraft and technology, but I don't understand they hype in the UK about the Airbus 380. In reality, it's barely bigger than than the largest variant of the original Jumbo jet, the 747. Despite this (and for critical safety reasons) there have had to be runway modifications to accommodate the aircraft, and some handy pre-publicity as a result. The real innovation is the passenger layout, increasing the capacity from around 600 to 800.

It's 'wrong' for a number of reasons: It's usefulness will be limited to routes that need long-haul passengers of sufficient numbers to ensure it's full when it flies – if it's not full, then it's a loss-maker in terms of revenue, and in terms of fuel-effciiency. What will an operator doo if they can't fill one? Cancel the flight and disappoint 700 passengers, or fly it and make a loss? Operators are already squealing if they don't fill a few seats on normal aircraft. Environmentally, it's now questionable too, as we don't really need something that may introduce yet more pollution, injected directly into the upper atmosphere, if it creates a new class of air passenger.

In 2006, the real advance would be to see passenger numbers and flights reduced, and corporations streamlining their businesses so they don't have to have employees flying around the world. I have a friend, an accountant, who regularly flies to Nigeria and the Far East as part of her job. Why? No disrespect to her, but don't they have accountants there that could be tasked with same job?

The other point it highlights is the farcical taxation of aviation fuel – or rather lack of taxation. Apparently, because of the international operation of aircraft, its fuel can't be taxed in the same way as petrol and diesel, so while air passengers fly practically tax-free, on largely unnecessary cut-price holiday deals, directly damaging the atmosphere by chucking their jet exhaust into the upper atmosphere, car and vehicle driver are being taxed off the road with near 80% fuel tax in the name of protecting the environment, and as a handy by-product, fattening the Government's treasury chest.


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