Thursday, August 20, 2009

Does flying on an A380 mean lower fares for passengers?

When Airbus started marketing the A380, the argument made by some is that because you're packing so many people into a more efficient aircraft (for it's size) that air fares should go down. Well I wanted to to see if that was true. When Emirates started running it's A380 from Dubai to JFK direct it was was hard to compare air fares as there wasn't any competition on that non stop route (unsurprisingly Emirates reallocated that flight to the Dubai-Toronto route).

Now that Air France is on the verge of starting a Paris-New York flight on an A380, it does give this blogger an opportunity to comparison shop the airfares.

For my comparison I kept a few things static across the different carriers I looked at: Flying out December 15th and returning December 22nd. Air fare is the lowest for a single adult.

The comparison would be against AFoo7 (outbound to CDG) and AF006 (inbound to JFK). Both these flights are on the A380.

The total air fare for this flight (from the Air France Web Site) is $824.10.

I compared that against the following Air France flights between JFK and CDG:
AF007/AF006 (A380-800) - $824.10

AF023/AF022 (777-200ER) - $781.10

AF011/AF010 (777-200ER) - $886.10

AF009/AF008 (777-200ER) - $762.10

The following American Airlines Flight between JFK and CDG:

AA044/AA045 (767-300ER) - $679.00

The following Air France flights between Newark Liberty (EWR) and CDG:

AF019/AF018 (A330-200) - $885.10

The following Continental Airlines Flights between EWR and CDG:

CO056/CO057 (767-400ER) - $680.00

CO054/CO055 (757-200) - $680.00

Now a couple of things. This does not necessarily mean that the A380 flight is more expensive to operate on the New York - Paris route just that the air fares that the paying public pay is more expensive compared to most of the other flight options flown on older equipment. Indeed the A380 flights is the third most expensive in the New York-Paris market out of the 8 daily non stops. One explanation is that the other two Air France flights AF011 - 9:45PM and AF019 - 7PM are prime time flight as is AF007 - 7:10PM. CO54 leaves at 8:45PM also prime time while AA044 leaves at around 5:50PM a little before the prime time flight hours to Europe. Also I did not include Delta as they code share their Paris flights on Air France and the air fares are the same.

What about across the Pacific?

Ok to make sure that I wasn't seeing things, I did a similar comparison between Sydney, Australia and LAX. I compared the fares on QANTAS flight using the A380 (QF012/QF011) vs flight offered by QANTAS (on a 747-400) and it's competitor. I assumed in all cases that departure date from LAX on Nov. 25, 2009 and returning from Sydney on Dec 2, 2009. The airfare is for a single adult roundtrip on non stop service. Here are the results:

QANTAS Flights:

QF012/QF011 (A380-800) - $1913

QF108/QF107 (747-400) - $1404

NOTE: QF012 departs LAX at 10:30 PM and QF108 departs LAX at 11:45PM, a difference of only 1h hour and 15 minutes but a difference in price of over $500!!

VAustralia Flight:

VA002/VA001 (777-300ER) - $844.10

This flight departs LAX at 8:10PM.

United Flight:

UA839/UA840 (747-400) - $894.10

This flight departs LAX at 10:17PM

Delta Flight:

DL17/DL16 (777-200LR) - $2635

This flight departs LAX at 10:50PM

Of the five round trip flights analyzed here, the A380 flights is the 2nd most expensive with the Delta flights flown on a 777-200LR being very expensive (by over $700). But very interestingly is that a QANTAS flight that leave an hour and fifteen minutes later is over $500 less in air fare! If I were going to Australia and trying to save some dough well the choice is clear and I would take the QF108 flight (if I am so intent on flying the Qantas product).

In summary the hype of the A380 for the paying passenger really doesn't live up to the reality on the competitive routes. Qantas even beats it's own pricing on one of its most lucrative routes as does Air France when you compare the A380 fares vs the non A380 fares in the same market. The A380 doesn't deliver value to the flying public.


HF said...

What a load of subjective hogwash.

People are still paying a slight premium for flying on the newest, latest, biggest, most marvellous aeroplane.

Until that novelty wears off, there will continue to be a price premium for flying the new Queen of the skies.

Uresh said...

Well the problem with that is that we are in a new economic reality and people will not pay up to fly on a novelty. Look at Emirates and their A380 flight between JFK and Dubai. Even with premium pricing and the novely, they couldn't fill the seats on a market that they had a monopoly on!

keesje said...

Airlines will fly the maximum they can. If the aircraft gets empty they'll lower the prices a little bit.

There isn't hype of paying less in a A380. It doesn't work like that.