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Airbus and Boeing Size up in Paris

Airbus A380 jet airliner under dark cloudy skies, in front view.

Builders debut improved versions of A380, 737 MAX, focusing on increased capacity

Commercial aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing are betting on airlines’ bottom line at the 2017 Paris Air Show, offering bigger aircraft with increased passenger capacity. Both carriers showcased improved versions of existing airframes capable of carrying even more flyers than before.

The first announcements came on Sunday, June 18, from Airbus. With rumors swirling, the French airframe builder confirmed the A380plus, a next generation of their iconic superjumbo jet. The A380plus features many design features borrowed from the A350, including the first split wingtip for the giant, along with an improved fuel pump to provide better reliability. The company claims the A380plus is more fuel-efficient, using four percent less fuel than the original A380.

The biggest news for passengers could come inside of the cabin. Airbus also announced a new interior configuration for the A380plus. Through removing the trademark spiral staircase and sidewall storage, the double-deck aircraft could be outfitted to transport 575 flyers with a range of 8,200 miles. Without the “high capacity” configuration, the A380plus could increase its range to just over 8,500 miles.

The improvements come as the industry is debating the future of the A380 program. Three years ago, the company considered stopping A380 manufacturing entirely, while promising new aircraft options this year. Data suggests there are 104 A380 deliveries outstanding, including two dropped orders through May 2017.

Not to be outdone, Boeing made a direct move to target the A320neo program with a debut of their own. The Chicago manufacturer introduced their latest single-aisle aircraft in Paris, the 737-MAX 10.

Powered by the CFM International LEAP-1B powerplant, the company claims that the longest variant of the 737 family will be the “lowest seat-mile cost of any single-aisle airplane ever produced.” The aircraft is stretched by over five-and-a-half feet compared to the MAX 9, with a maximum capacity of 230 passengers in a single-class economy only configuration. The enhanced cabin could potentially accommodate 30 more passengers than the MAX 8 variant.

While the A380plus has not yet received much attention, Boeing says that they have secured over 240 orders for the newest 737, but declined to state their clients. Announcements on who will be flying the 737 MAX-10 could come by the end of the week. Business Insider estimates that the orders could be worth $30 billion to Boeing.

Although high-capacity cabins are making the most news in Paris, the passenger experience has not been forgotten. Airbus announced that the Airspace interior, featured on the A330 and A350 aircrafts, would be offered for A320 aircraft. The Airspace interior includes a larger “Airspace Bin” overhead, LED lighting systems and redesigned lavatories. Meanwhile, the future 737-MAX 10 aircraft would be built with Boeing’s Sky Interior, increasing overhead space by an estimated 50 percent.

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