Airbus has received clearance from EASA to lift the total passenger capacity by up to 40 seats, maxing out at 480.
A typical 3 class layout would see that at about 420 – the same as BA’s A380 total, in 4 class around 400.
Airbus wanted to lift the capacity option to more closely match or exceed the outgoing 747’s, existing A380 and 777 types while putting it closer to the 777-8/9.
It’s been achieved by repositioning and redesigning escape doors to allow wider exits and two simultaneously deployable evacuation chutes, to improve the rate of escape.
The downside for airlines is that the new A+ Doors as they’re known, will require three cabin crew per door rather than two.
Each door is required to have a minimum of 110 evacuations per door, (almost always in an incident, all doors are not viable exit points) which was insufficient with the new load. To reach the requirement that’s gone up to 120 evacuations per door and that requires one more trained crew to man evacuation exits.
Each exit has also been given enhanced lighting, guide lights and specific self powered emergency exit signs.
However to get to 480 all of the doors would have to be A+ type, each door that only meets the normal A standard would reduce capacity by 10 seats.
Airbus plan to offer the doors as an option – as they do with the A333. Some of those are specified with full sized doors behind the wing for example and some only with a smaller escape only door for emergencies, that permits seating adjacent.
There’s also a downside for passengers – isn’t there always. Travel in economy on the high capacity version and it means seating will rise to ten abreast rather than the standard nine.