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A380 vs 747: Passenger Perspective Comparison

A380 vs 747: Passenger Perspective Comparison

If you’re a fan of flying, you can surely appreciate the comfort and reliability of large airplanes. But which one is the best, safest, and most comfortable? Today, I’ll compare two of the largest planes you can encounter as an ordinary traveler: A380 vs. 747.

Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 are both known as giants of the skies. Both were long considered flagships of their respective manufacturers, and many travelers aim to try them out on their own.

If you had the chance to pick any of them, which one should you choose? This article will provide you with all the details you need to know.

My Bottom Line Up Front

While Boeing 747 was the first original jumbo jet, newer and technically more advanced Airbus A380 had overshadowed its older cousin in many regards. If you’re after comfort, safety, and an overall relaxing experience, I believe you’ll enjoy the A380 much more.

Main Differences Between A380 vs 747

The main differences between A380 and 747 are:

  • A380 has a wider wingspan, whereas the 747 has a smaller wingspan.
  • A380 is the world’s largest passenger airline, whereas 747 ranks second.
  • A380 is quieter and provides better humidity and air pressure in the cabin, whereas the 747 is quite loud and slightly behind in the in-cabin atmosphere.
  • A380 has a significantly longer second deck, whereas 747 has a partial second floor.
  • A380 has an excellent safety record with zero fatalities, whereas 747 was involved in multiple severe incidents over the years.

When we’re looking for the best way of getting to our most popular travel destinations, choosing an aircraft type may not be an option. Nevertheless, some travelers crave flying with a specific kind of iconic plane to the point that they do not hesitate to adjust their plans around it.

This comparison will help you decide which of these two giants is worth the hassle. Let’s start with a short overview of their key specifications:

Key Specifications of the A380 vs 747

A380

Aircraft A380 747
Max. certified capacity 853 passengers 605 passengers
Engines Engine Alliance GP7200 or Rolls-Royce Trent 900 turbofans GEnx-2B
Range 8,000 nmi (14,800 km) 7,730 nmi (14,315 km)
Cruise speed 903 km/h Mach 0.85 914 km/h Mach 0.86
Fuel capacity 85,472 US gal / 323,546 litres 63,034 US gal / 238,610 litres
Cabin pressure 6,000 feet 7,000 feet
Origin Multi-national United States

Exploring A380 vs 747 in Detail

Now let’s take a closer look at these impressive machines from the passenger’s viewpoint:

A380

A380 is a four-engine double-decker widebody airline produced by the multinational manufacturer Airbus. The plane has completed its first flight in 2005 and entered mass production two years later.

With its maximum certified capacity for 853 passengers spread across its two full-length separate floors, A380 is the world’s largest passenger airline.

If you want to fly this giant, your best chance is booking a flight with some of the world’s best first-class airlines like Singapore Airlines, Qantas, or Emirates. Clearly, this colossal plane is most suitable for long-haul flights.

Key Features

A380

 

  • World’s largest wide-bodied passenger airplane
  • Comes with four Engine Alliance GP7200 or Rolls-Royce Trent 900 turbofan engines
  • Produced between years 2003 and 2021
  • A true double-decker with full-length second floor
  • Quiet with optimal humidity and cabin air pressure
  • 15 m longer wingspan than that of Boeing 747
  • 50% heavier than Boeing 747
  • Spacious, modern, and very comfortable fleet

Construction

Airbus A380 is the world’s largest passenger airplane, and considering the current trends in the industry, it is unlikely that any new aircraft will claim this primacy in the foreseeable future.

Airbus produced this plane in two basic versions – A380-800 passenger plane and A380F cargo aircraft. The original passenger configuration provided three classes, but some airlines now only divide this space into economy and business areas.

Although A380 is not the first double-decked aircraft, some might claim that it is the only “real” one since its upper floor runs along the plane’s whole fuselage.

This creates lots of space on the upper deck and significantly increases your chances of being seated there. In addition, A380’s construction uses many innovative materials and technologies, including modern composites such as carbon-fiber, quartz-fiber, and glass-fiber reinforced plastic or ​​hybrid fiber metal laminate material known as GLARE.

A380 is also the first aircraft with smooth contours of wing cross-section to reduce aerodynamic drag.

Consumption and Eco-friendliness

Airbus claims its A380 is the most efficient aircraft globally, consuming less than 3 liters of fuel per passenger over a 100 km distance.

Nevertheless, these claims are complicated (if not impossible) to prove since too many variables prevent accurate comparison of two individual planes.

The fact is that A380 is almost 50% heavier than the 747, so if the plane is poorly occupied, it might as well be utterly inefficient in comparison with smaller planes. Citing Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, which has grounded their A380 fleet completely: It is a very inefficient aircraft in fuel burn and emission.”

At least partially, the aircraft compensates for this by significantly reducing noise, which benefits the passengers and the environment. However, the bottom line is that if you’re an environmentally conscious passenger, choosing A380 might not be your best decision.

Passenger Comfort

A380 Passenger Comfort

When it comes to giant airplanes and comfort, people sometimes worry about traveling in an extra crowded environment. I get it – the idea of boarding along hundreds of people always made me nauseous.

Nevertheless, even though a full-length A380 could host almost nine hundred passengers, it typically carries only around 500-550 people, so once you’re finally seated, there’s still plenty of space for your comfort.

Since the planes are often newer than 747 (we’ll get to that shortly), you can also expect more unused and comfortable seats, up-to-date entertainment, more pleasant ambient lighting, etc.

Of course, if you want to splurge yourself with business or first-class tickets, you get a whole new world of luxurious options. Some A380s, for example, have an onboard lounge, bar, spa, and restaurant, or complete residence suits.

Other vital factors for passenger comfort are well-balanced humidity, good cabin pressure (11.7 psi = 7,000 feet), and low noise levels. Thanks to its superb insulation and state-of-art air circulation system, A380 excels in all areas, providing you with the best possible experience.

Safety

As of March 2022, the Airbus A380 fleet has successfully completed over 800,000 flights without a single fatal accident. In this regard, A380 can be seen as one of the world’s safest aircraft. Moreover, none of these airplanes was ever damaged beyond repair.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that A380 is 100% immune to technical issues. On 4 November 2010, for example, a Qantas flight from Singapore to Sydney experienced a severe engine failure that has forced the plane to return.

An inspection revealed that the A380’s engines were prone to cracks. The whole fleet had to be inspected and many engines replaced.

747

Boeing 747

Boeing 747 might not be the largest passenger airline in the world anymore, but it will forever hold the primacy of being the first double-decker jet airliner in history.

Also known as a jumbo jet, this iconic American airplane has first appeared in the sky in 1969, being mass-produced from 1970 onwards. This distinguishably bulked model was originally designed as a cargo plane particularly suitable for military purposes.

Although its production will be officially terminated in 2022 (​​after a 54-year run), you can still enjoy flying it with many airlines worldwide, including Korean Air or Lufthansa.

Key Features

  • First double-decker jet airliner in the world
  • Newer planes come with General Electric GEnx dual-rotor turbofan engines
  • Produced between years 1969 and 2022
  • A semi-double-decker with a wider lower deck design
  • Quiet with optimal humidity and air pressure
  • 15 m shorter wingspan than A380 and about 30% smaller capacity
  • Considerably lighter than A380
  • Since the fleet is older, you can come across somewhat outdated cabins

Construction

Like A380, Boeing 747 was also initially designed as a full-length double-decker with a second floor spreading above the whole lower floor. Nevertheless, the engineers have reconsidered this for safety reasons and created a smaller upper deck, resulting in a characteristic bulky appearance of the plane.

In its early days, the 747 was truly a revolutionary airplane, and it had to face many doubts concerning its safety and efficiency. Moreover, the constructors also had to address the technical limitations of airports that were often unprepared to host such a large passenger plane.

This led to many technical innovations like the advanced high-lift devices and three-part slotted flaps on the 747’s wings. Over the decades, Boeing improved and innovated 747 in numerous different ways.

One of the most recent updates included replacing 747’s engines with custom-made General Electric GEnx – a dual rotor, axial flow, high-bypass turbofan jet engine with noise dampening chevrons and reduced fuel burn.

In contrast with A380, 747 comes in a wide array of variations. Some of them were retired already, whereas others have served special applications like the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft designed to transport space shuttles. The largest passenger model is 747-8.

Consumption and Eco-friendliness

Boeing 747

Similarly to Airbus, Boeing also states that its largest airplane is the most efficient airplane in the world. Again, since these aircraft have so many constructional differences and can also be set up in completely different configurations, it’s impossible to make an accurate comparison.

Nevertheless, the fact is that environmental and economic reasons have heavily contributed to the recent termination of 747’s production.

Still, the manufacturer can be indeed praised for his efforts to improve the eco-friendliness of this aircraft over time. ​​The newer 747-8, for example, provides a 16 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions compared to 747-400.

Passenger Comfort

When 747 first appeared, it was undoubtedly a great advancement for the whole industry. Passengers benefited from its innovative features and enlargened space greatly too. It was a truly luxurious plane back then – and in some regards, it still is.

This plane is, for example, still one of the best when it comes to standard seat width across all classes so that you can have a more relaxing experience.

Also, the convenient cabin pressure (8.6 psi = 7,000 feet) contributes to less fatigue and headaches than you might experience in some other planes, although A380 is even more efficient in this regard.

747 is also quieter than many other airplanes, although it is still pretty noisy compared to A380 or newer Boeing 787.

Safety

Unlike A380, Boeing 747 fleet has been involved in a fair share of incidents resulting in 63 hull losses and 3746 fatalities. Of course, keep in mind that it is a much older and larger fleet, so the statistics must be interpreted a bit differently.

Moreover, not all the past accidents can be blamed on the plane itself. Boeing 747 aircraft was, for example, repeatedly targeted by hijackers (e.g., Pan Am flight 73). In other cases, the accidents were caused by human error or failed communication.

Some issues connected to the 747’s technical state include problems with inertion. However, these were reviewed and resolved on a large scale in 2008.

A380 Pros and Cons

Boeing 747 Passenger Comfort

 

Pros

  • Larger airplane with greater capacity
  • Newer fleet
  • More capacity on the upper deck – higher chance to get there!
  • Excellent safety record – no fatal accidents so far
  • More convenient cabin pressure
  • More tolerable humidity
  • Quiet inside and out

Cons

  • Inefficient with high emissions
  • Grounded by many airlines, it’s not easy to find one anymore
  • Very lengthy boarding if fully occupied

747 Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The first double-decker jet airliner
  • 40+ years of experience and improvements
  • Large fleet all over the world despite discontinued production
  • Nice seat width and good overall comfort
  • Slightly faster than A380
  • Smaller capacity means faster boarding

Cons

  • Not the best safety record
  • Older planes might feel outdated
  • Smaller upper deck (and overall) capacity
  • Considerably noisier than A380
  • Slightly worse cabin pressure and humidity level

Are there any Alternatives?

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing 787, also known as Dreamliner, is currently considered the most efficient, reliable, and popular passenger aircraft. Thanks to its unique construction and technical equipment, this airplane is impressively fuel-efficient and in line with the trends within the industry.

Passengers praise this airplane for its comfort too. It feels elegant and modern; it has an excellent entertainment system, lovely ambient lights, and 30% bigger windows. The fine-tuned air pressure and humidity levels also contribute to a relaxing and enjoyable flight experience.

Airbus A350

A350 Cabin

King is dead; long live the king! A350 is the new Airbus flagship and a direct replacement of the recently retired A380. In terms of a passenger experience, A350 should be very close to A380 – modern, comfortable, neat, and with a healthy in-cabin atmosphere.

The main difference between A380 and A350 is in the efficiency. The new airplane is much quieter, and Airbus claims it consumes 25-30% less fuel per passenger. On the other hand, it’s also significantly smaller. The largest version, A350-1000, has a capacity of approximately 330 passengers.

Boeing 777X

Boeing 777X

An official flagship replacement for the Boeing 747 is called777X. The American aircraft manufacturer introduced its newest wide-bodied super-jet at a quiet employees-only event two years ago. The new plane will carry 400+ passengers and fly further than A380 and 747, using only two engines.

At 252 feet long, 777X is the longest commercial airplane in the world. There are many incentives for the passengers, including space-simulating cabin lighting, large windows, and ultra-quiet operation. 77X is currently in the final stages of testing and should appear on the runways as soon as 2024.

Frequently Asked Questions about A380 vs 747

Question: How Many Cycles Can an A380 Fly?

Answer: Long haul aircrafts such as Airbus A380 are typically designed to withstand approximately 30-40 thousand flights. This corresponds to about 40-45 years of service. Since A380 was first introduced in 2005, none of the airplanes have reached this limit yet.

Question: Does the A380 Still Fly?

Answer: Yes. Although many airlines have grounded their A380s for economic reasons (particularly during the pandemics), some of the best airlines still use them, including Emirates and Qantas.

Question: What is the Oldest 747 Still Flying?

Answer: Saudi Arabian Royal Flight operates the world’s oldest known Boeing 747. It is approximately 43 years old.

Our Verdict: Which is Better – A380 or 747?

The Boeing 747 is a legend and one of the most important machines in aviation history. But while I genuinely empathize with the sentiments towards the iconic jumbo jet, its younger, more innovative, and much more comfortable competition is my number one choice.

The Airbus A380 might be a failure from an economic point of view, but as a passenger, you will surely benefit from its incredible comfort, reassuring safety record, and wonderful in-cabin ambiance. In this regard, it’s unfortunate that we won’t enjoy this giant in any new versions and upgrades.

Nevertheless, while the super-large double-decker jet planes are now officially history, let’s wait and see what the future brings. Looking at the newest fuel-efficient and super-comfortable aircraft like 777X, it looks pretty bright to me.

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