Air Austral maxes out A380 with 840 passengers


Air Austral has confirmed an order for two Airbus A380 superjumbos that will carry over 800 people in the first all-economy version of the world’s largest airliner.

The La Reunion-based airline said it would configure the aircraft for 840 passengers and start using them on services between Paris and the French overseas territory from 2014.

The deal will put the A380 into service as the industry’s largest people carrier and comes 80 years after the first wood and canvas plane touched down on the Indian Ocean island after making the 9,300 kilometre (5,800 miles) trip from Paris in 10 days.

The A380 entered service in 2007 and is designed to seat 525 people in ordinary three-class seating or 850 people when its two floors of passenger cabins are filled with economy seats.

So far, buyers of the plane have focused on luring premium passengers with facilities from beds and showers in first class to a stand-up bar, with total seating of around 500 people.

The economy end of the airline market has performed better during the financial crisis, and Air Austral said it saw demand for the services between Paris and La Reunion, whose airport runway is already long enough to handle the mammoth plane.

“We are very proud to be the first ones to start with the high-density A380,” the airline’s founder and president Gerard Etheve told a news conference.

The aircraft was tested for the ability to evacuate over 800 people in cabin emergency tests before entering service.

Air Austral’s planes will be powered by engines from the Engine Alliance, a joint venture between General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

The A380 deal includes options for a further two A380s to serve future Caribbean routes.