The Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 widebodies are very different aircraft physically, primarily due to the upper passenger deck on the A380, making the A380 a much bigger and heavier aircraft than the 787. It’s also worth noting right off the bat that while the A380 is out of production now, the 787 remains in full production.
In this article, I’ll compare these two aircraft from a number of different perspectives including size, seating capacity, range, and orders. At the end, I will also take a look at some fun and interesting facts about each of them.
The A380 is no longer in production and was available in just one variant; the A380-800. Other variants were proposed but never produced, including the A380 Freighter (A380F), the A380-200 or ‘A380 Stretch,’ the A380-900 (another stretched variant), the A380neo (stretched, new engines, and higher passenger capacity), and the A380plus (higher seat capacity and improved fuel efficiency).
In addition to being the world’s largest passenger airliner, the A380 is also the only full-length double-deck commercial passenger aircraft. Airbus originally conceived the initial idea for the A380 back in the late 1980s and it was developed as a direct long-haul competitor to the Boeing 747. The A380 program was not launched until 2000, and the first prototype was produced in Toulouse, France, in 2005. FAA- and EASA-type ratings were received in 2006.
The first A380 deliveries were delayed and took place in 2007, with Singapore Airlines being the launch customer. At its production peak, Airbus was able to make thirty A380s a year.
The A380s largest customer is Emirates with 123 deliveries. In 2019, Emirates canceled part of a large order, and subsequently, Airbus decided to end the A380’s short-lived production run. The final A380, the 251st, was delivered to Emirates in 2021.
The B787 family is available in three variants:
|Aircraft Model||Type||First In Service|
Its development was driven by a need to produce more fuel-efficient aircraft. Boeing targeted 20% less consumption than the aircraft that the 787 was to replace, such as the 767; carrying capacity of 200 to 300 passengers; and deployment mainly on point-to-point routes of up to 8,500nm (15,700km).
The 787 was the first airliner developed with an airframe made mostly from composite materials. It has a distinctive and recognizable appearance with its four-window cockpit and its raked wingtips.
In 2011, ANA became the first airline to receive a Boeing 787, a 787-8. The stretched B787-9 entered service in 2014, also with ANA. The further stretched B787-10 entered service with Singapore Airlines in 2018.
Let’s take a look at some key physical characteristics and see how these two aircraft measure up against each other. As you would expect, the double-passenger deck A380 is significantly heavier than the single-passenger deck 787 and has a wider diameter fuselage. The A380 also has a longer wingspan and a longer fuselage than all the 787 variants.
The A380 is classified as an FAA Group VI aircraft because of its long wingspan; the 787 belongs to the smaller Group V. Group VI includes aircraft with wingspans between 65m and 80m. Group V includes aircraft with wingspans between 52m and 65m.
|Aircraft Model||Length/ m||Wingspan/ m||Tail Height/ m||Fuselage Width/ m||MTOW/t|
All 787 variants have relatively long ranges which vary from around 11,700km to 14,000km. The ranges of the 787 variants are shown in the table below:
The 787 has proven to be a highly adaptable all-purpose aircraft operating some of the longest direct air routes in the world such as Tokyo-Boston, Los Angeles-Melbourne, and the incredible London-Perth route. But it is also deployed by some airlines on some very short routes such as domestic routes in Japan, confirming how versatile this aircraft can be.
Airbus indicates that the A380 has a range of 8,000nm (15,000km), with a standard 4-class cabin configuration. This is longer than all 787 variants, but only just longer than the 787-9’s range.
Seat Capacity and Cabin Layout
The table below shows the passenger typical 2-class cabin configuration seating capacities of the 787 variants published by Boeing:
|Model||Passengers (Typical 2-Class Seating)|
In practice, we see a huge variety around these numbers as airlines have fitted out these aircraft in 1-class, 2-class, 3-class, and even 4-class configurations. Seat numbers per aircraft, therefore, vary widely depending on the number of classes, the proportion of the cabin dedicated to premium cabins, and whether flatbed seats are installed in the premium cabins.
We can see these wide variations if we look at some examples:
- United Airlines has configured its 4-class B787-8s to have 243 seats
- United Airlines has configured its 3-class B787-9s to have 252 seats and its 4-class B787-9s to have 257 seats
- United Airlines has configured its 4-class B787-10s to have 318 seats
- British Airways operates 3-class B787-8s with 214 seats, and 4-class B787-9s with 216 seats
The twin-aisle 787 typically has eight or nine seats abreast in economy class (2-4-2, 3-3-3), although nine seats abreast is a more common configuration. Seat rows can be arranged in four to seven abreast in first or business, e.g. 1–2–1,2–2–2, or 2–3–2.
As an example, British Airways 4-class 787s are four abreast in first class (1-2-1), seven abreast in business and premium economy class (2-3-2), and nine abreast in economy class (3-3-3).
Airbus indicates that the A380 allows 545 seats in a standard 4-class configuration and a maximum seating capacity of 853. The maximum 4-class configuration currently operating is 520 seats.
For the A380 I looked at the seating configurations of all current A380 operators. Typically, this aircraft is configured with three or four-class cabin configurations, with one airline (Emirates) operating a two-class configuration (business and economy classes) on some of its aircraft.
The average seat numbers for each cabin configuration are set out in the table below:
The twin-aisle A380 interior typically allows cabin configurations of ten seats per row in economy class – lower deck, and eight seats per row in economy class – upper deck. Premium economy is typically seven, or eight seats per row, depending on which deck is used. Business class typically has four to six seats per row (with eight seats abreast in British Airways’ opposing seat layout), and first class has three or four seats per row.
Customers and Orders
Comparing all orders received for 787 aircraft as of the end of December 2022 we can see that the 787-9 is the most popular of all 787 variants accounting for 57.3% of 2,042 total orders from over 70 customers. The 787-8 accounts for 32.1% of all orders and the 787-10 for 10.5%.
The top 787 customer (all variants), excluding unidentified customers, to date is United Airlines which has ordered a total of 186 B787s. United is followed by All Nippon Airways with a total of 96 orders.
As of the end of December 2022, there were 571 unfulfilled orders for the 787, as follows:
- B787-8 – 30 aircraft
- B787-9 – 432 aircraft
- B787-10 – 109 aircraft.
This means that Boeing has delivered 72% of the total 787 orders as of the end of December 2022. The largest outstanding order is for 100 787-9s and one 787-10 for United Airlines.
The A380 is no longer in production and Airbus received a total of 251 orders from Air France, ANA, Asiana, British Airways, China Southern, Emirates, Etihad, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways.
Emirates is by far the A380’s largest customer, accounting for almost 50% of the total orders. Singapore Airlines is the second largest customer accounting for around 10% of orders.
Lastly, let’s take a look at some interesting things about the two types, starting with the Boeing 787:
- The 787 has the largest windows of all commercial passenger aircraft, measuring 47cm x 28cm, 65% larger than those typically found on other commercial aircraft; there are no window shades – instead, the glass can be dimmed using electronic dimming technology
- The 787 is said to be the first commercial passenger jet to feature an airframe made mostly of composite materials to achieve a lower weight without sacrificing strength or durability
- The 787 is made up of around 2.3 million parts
- The 787 has something in common with the B-2 bomber as they share a similar active gust alleviation system that measures the degree of turbulence being experienced; this system creates adjustments to smooth out the flight so that passengers have a more comfortable ride
As for the A380, there are some fun facts worth knowing too:
- The cargo hold of an A380 can carry up to 3,000 suitcases
- Each A380 is made of four million individual components produced by around 1,500 companies located in 30 different countries
- Almost half of all A380s were ordered by one airline – Emirates
- The A380 offers almost 6,000 square feet of usable floor space over its multiple decks; that’s about 40% more than the Boeing 747-8 (for more information read our A380 vs. 747 comparison)
Boeing 787 vs. Airbus A380: Summary
The 787 and A380 widebody aircraft are, physically, quite a different aircraft. The much larger A380, with its two decks, is heavier, wider, longer, and carries more passengers than the B787 variants.
The A380 is no longer in production and had a delivery run from 2007 to 2021. The 787 was first delivered in 2011 and remains in production today. So far, Boeing has delivered 72% of the total orders received by the end of December 2022.
In terms of commercial success, it can be said that the 787 is a far more successful aircraft than the A380, with eight times as many orders. Given the continuing popularity of the 787 to date, it looks like significantly more orders will continue to be placed. Between the end of September 2022 and the end of December 2022, Boeing received more than 140 B787 orders.