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Are Smaller Airplanes Better Than Bigger Airplanes? – Boeing 787 vs. Airbus A380

The Airbus A380 is an amazingly ginormous airplane that can fit over 600 people inside. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner tops out at around 300. But bigger isn’t better.

The smaller Boeing 787 Dreamliner is used more by airlines across the world. In fact, the Boeing has 1,200 orders for the 787 Dreamliner, while Airbus has scaled back to only making one A380 a month. Why is that? Wendover Productions explains the economics of long haul flights and how different philosophies from Airbus and Boeing led to such different airplanes.

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Airbus built the A380 because it believes in the hub and spoke concept of flying. That is, airlines will have smaller cities connect to main hub cities before flying to other large cities. So if you want to go from Hartford to London, you’ll have to go through New York first. The A380 is a plane built to support the main leg of that route (the New York to London flight), piling in as many people as possible onto a long haul flight. The thinking is a popular flight like that has enough demand to fill a giant plane.

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, on the other hand, is built under the idea of a point to point system. Which is exactly like it sounds, if you want to go from Hartford to London, you just go from Hartford to London. Even though that route is less popular than New York to London, airlines are able to fly it because they have a more nimble and fuel efficient plane in the 787 Dreamliner. The 787 has a fuel efficiency of 102 miles-per-gallon per seat, while the A380 can only manage 74mpg per seat. Those savings turned out to matter more than having more passengers.


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