Early Saturday morning the world of luxury commercial air travel once again moved to a new level as the Inaugural Etihad A380 flight from Abu Dhabi to London took flight, complete with the Residence, a three room suite including a private shower and double bed. The first class cabin on board (a step below the Residence) includes the only single-aisle wide-body airplane configuration currently flying. There’s a lot to appreciate about the way Etihad has approached the premium cabins on board their newest aircraft type.
But what about the rest of us?
What if you’re not flying in the lap of luxury? For passengers in the economy class cabin the A380 options appear quite similar in many ways. A bit of number crunching and reviews of seat maps suggests that there are some very real differences, however. So, who offers the best ride for A380 economy class seats?
To answer this question I took a look at all 16 A380 configurations currently flying across 13 airlines. Getting an “apples-to-apples” comparison is complicated because no two have the exact same layout on board. Still, there are enough similarities that the numbers eventually yield some useful data. I’m personally partial to layouts which have A380 economy class seats upstairs. I like the 2-4-2 layout much better than the 3-4-3 layout on the lower deck. There’s usually a bit of extra space by the window thanks to the curve of the fuselage and generally fewer people around which makes it feel a bit more intimate. It also typically should mean better/faster service and a quieter cabin experience overall. But only 9 of the 16 layouts offer that option.
Of those nine layouts four also have a lounge or premium seating in the same area at the rear of the upper deck which makes the comparisons much harder. And the number of seats in the space upstairs is pretty consistent; there is no one airline which has a significantly better cabin layout upstairs than the competition that I can see from the seat maps. Asiana squeezes a row or two extra in the same space so they would be last on my list, while the other airlines with a lower number of seats upstairs are usually such because the additional space is assigned to other passengers or to galley space.
Looking at the seating downstairs, however, the comparisons are a bit easier to draw. All but one of the A380 operators (British Airways) has the entire lower deck to the rear of the second exit door configured with economy class seats. And the range of seats installed is impressively broad. Thai Airways has only 297 seats behind that door downstairs while Air France has 359 seats; that’s 20% more passengers (6 additional rows) in the same space. Interestingly, Asiana is towards the lower end of the collection on the lower deck with only 311 seats in the compared space, comparable to Singapore Airlines and one row more than Korean’s 301 seats.
At the crowded end of the spectrum Air France is joined by Malaysia Airlines and China Southern in having more than 350 seats in that lower deck area. And sitting in the middle of the pack are Qatar Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, Qantas and Etihad.
Of course there are variations in the on-board product such as the IFE systems, meals and other factors. But at the end of the day I’m focused on personal space above all the other stuff. And looking at the numbers I now know where I’m going to have the best chance of actually finding that smidgen of extra space which makes the flight just a bit more tolerable.
I should note that I’ve flown on Thai & Lufthansa’s A380 in Y downstairs and on BA’s upstairs. I do remember the Thai & BA seats being quite reasonable and Lufthansa’s as not all that horrible. That seems to line up with these numbers as well.
n.b. – Most of the data, including the images, for the comparisons was pulled from SeatGuru with spot-checks against the airlines’ sites as well.
Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.
Finally a post on the travel blogs for those of us that fly economy. I don’t earn nearly as many miles as many people in the community & appreciate flying more places than flying in luxury.
Flew Thai on award miles and have to agree that the leg room was amazing. Was the equivalent of economy plus or more on a domestic airline.
Seth, thanks for the info. What would be great is a table with the different carriers, # of seats in Y, seat pitch, seat width, & layout. If you wanted to get adventurous (and subjective) you could include quality of IFE, wifi, etc.
I think it also depends on perspective. One of my friends, based in Chicago, mainly flies Spirit on all her domestic leisure travel. She flew on the Emirates A380 JFK-DXB enroute to India a few months ago and she found the economy seats there to be amazing!
I’ve flown in the economy cabin of Emirates A380, Thai A380, Singapore A380 and Korean A380 and never had issues with legroom (I’m average height at 5’10). I’m more of a window type guy so any seat with a window in economy is perfectly fine for me.
I agree with Lynn — so thank you Seth!
Seth – you are awesome. I want to echo what Lynn said. Thanks for being a differentiated blogger.
I think you and FrequentMiler could team up to have an awesome blog.
I’ve flown KE in coach from JFK and their seats are reasonably comfortable and spacious for coach. I believe at the time that I flew them, they had the 34 inches of pitch.
I find the LH380 to be horrible personal space wise…..maybe it’s just me, but I found it totally cramped. On top, Lufthansas IFE has got to be the worst.
On the contrary, I love flying SQ on the A380. Regular Y seat has good space (I’m 6’1″), most of the time I get lucky with an emergency exit seat, obviously different story then.
Agreed that the LH A380 IFE is pretty bad. But I mostly just watch the moving map anyways.
As for the LH seats I think they are middle of the pack. Not the best by any stretch but also not awful.
appreciate the post. As others have stated I’m tired of reading about luxuries that most people cannot afford. I just flew A380 from BKK to DOH exit row…front of plane via Qatar. Very happy with the accomidations. I like the fact that if you recline, the seat bottom moves forward. Much more accommodating for fellow passengers
I feel like you are penalizing airlines for having economy seating upstairs, by not highlighting that enough. Asiana even offers a shelf and a large bin for people in Economy upstairs in a window seat. That is easily the most personal space I have ever had in Economy anywhere and deserves a mention in an article like this.
Really? Because I explicitly state that I prefer sitting upstairs on the A380 where possible and cite the same reasons you do, among others:
“I’m personally partial to layouts which have A380 economy class seats upstairs. I like the 2-4-2 layout much better than the 3-4-3 layout on the lower deck. There’s usually a bit of extra space by the window thanks to the curve of the fuselage and generally fewer people around which makes it feel a bit more intimate. “
Yes. You talk about it at a high level but don’t even mention which six airlines offer an economy section upstairs.
You also bash Asiana’s upstairs seating which with its 2-4-2 seating and awesome shelf-bin, I contend is the answer to the question of which airline has the best A380 economy seat.
I had the 6 in the table; looks like I cropped it before publishing. Oops.
As for Asiana upstairs that becomes a trade-off between legroom and width more than some of the other carrier do.
Comments are closed.