Visitors watch a Airbus A380 landing at the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow on Aug. 30, 2013.
WASHINGTON - When Transaero Airlines takes delivery of its first Airbus A380 in 2015, the Russian carrier's superjumbo jet may end up having the highest seating capacity of any commercial passenger jet in the world.
Transaero CEO Olga Pleshakova tells Today in the Sky that the airline will outfit its four A380s with 652 seats in three classes of service.
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"Imperial Class is 12 seats, which are designed as suites," says Pleshakova, describing Transaero's A380 layout through a translator. " There are 24 seats in business class - these are full-flat seats and all-around access. And 616 is for the economy, for the total of 652."
That would give Transaero's A380s the highest seating capacity of any airline currently flying the jet, though other carriers are scheduled to receive their first A380s before Transaero does.
Air Austral, a French carrier based in the overseas island territory of Reunion, had ordered an 840-seat version of the jet that it was to receive in 2014. However, that order now appears to be in limbo after the airline hit a financial rough patch. And, even if the airline does eventually take delivery of the A380, the Airline Passenger Experience Association reports that Air Austral has backed off from the plan for a maximum-density seating layout.
Most other operators of the A380 have configured the jets with a capacity in a range between about 470 and 520 seats. At the low end, Korean Air says its 407-seat layout gives it 'the most spacious A380 anywhere."
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Transaero's coach class "seat pitch" - an industry term that refers to the space between a point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it - will be 31", according to Pleshakova.
That's a relatively tight fit, though it's in line with the offerings on some other long-haul carriers. Qantas, for example, offers a similar seat pitch on its A380 jets,according to SeatGuru.com. Emirates and Air France offer a still-tight average coach-class seat pitch of 32" on their A380s, according to SeatGuru.com.
Pleshakova also shed light on where Transaero plans to deploy its A380 superjumbos.
"It's going to be used on the most-popular routes that have the highest passenger traffic," Pleshakova tells Today in the Sky. "So it's Moscow to Thailand, Moscow to the Dominican Republic ... and also to Barcelona in Spain."
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And, in an interesting twist, Transaero says its A380 may even find its way into service on a domestic route.
"We're talking to the airport in the city of Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean to start using it domestically (to Moscow)," Pleshakova says.
That route comes in at about 4,000 miles, making it one of the longest possible domestic routes in the world that doesn't involve flying to a nation's overseas state or territory. For comparison's sake, a flight between Miami and Seattle or between Boston and San Francisco comes in at about 2,700 miles. The flight between New York JFK and Honolulu - a route flown by Hawaiian Airlines - comes in at just under 5,000 miles.
Transaero also has ordered four of Boeing's biggest passenger jet - the 747-8 Intercontinental. Transaero is scheduled to take delivery of its first of those jets in 2015, as well.
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"We plan to use these planes on various combinations on various routes," Pleshakova says. "Of course the way the 747-8 is designed is different inside from how A380 is laid out. So, for instance, high season to Thailand will be on the A380 and the low season will be the 747."
"On top of that," Pleshakova adds, "we're planning to use the 747-8 between Moscow and the United States destinations."
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