Airbus has struggled to find customers for the A380 Superjumbo over the past few years.
In fact, Airbus hasn’t had an airline order for the double-decker mega-plane since 2013.
But Airbus’ infatuation with the double-decker has not lessened.
In June, the US Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application filed by Airbus’ Raul Llamas Sandin, Lars Vollers, Philip Bradshaw, and Thierry Salmon late last year.
The application is for a future double decker passenger and cargo-liner.
While the A380 was billed as a flying palace, the aircraft described in the patent is considerably more utilitarian in nature.
Instead of luxury, the core purpose of the proposed jet is focused on functionality, operational flexibility, as well as the efficient boarding and deplaning of both decks.
The goal for this plane is to “maximise the number of flight missions carried out in a give time,” Airbus wrote in the application.
What Airbus wants to do with the new jet is to produce an aircraft that can switch back and forth between cargo and passenger duties.
Aircraft that can carry both passengers and cargo in the same cabin — known as “combis” — have been around for decades. For a while Boeing even sold combi versions of its 747 jumbo jet. However, past combis have not offered this level of flexibility.
According to the patent application, the jet can be equipped with a partition that can be adjusted based on how much passenger and cargo room is required for a particular flight.
In fact, some variants can be equipped with foldable chairs and moving partition that allows the plane to be quickly converted from cargo to passenger jet and vice versa.
This addresses a major concern for anyone operating large jumbo jets — the fear of flying around massive, half-empty planes. With Airbus’ proposed double-decker, the makeup of the cabin can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each flight.
In theory, based on the application, the plane may be able to fly into an airport as a cargo jet. After a short conversion process, it could leave the same airport as a passenger-liner. Or a combination of both.
In addition to its cargo and passenger carrying ability, the proposed double-decker will be able to board and offload its passengers without the need for a jetbridge or air stairs.
So far, the Airbus jet is only an idea on paper. The company has not yet been granted a patent for the double-decker. Even then, there’s no guarantee that the ideas proposed will ever come to fruition.
The A380 is Airbus’ only double-decker aircraft and with sales lagging, it’s unclear how many more years the plane will be in production. In fact, it’s entirely possible that by the time the plane in the application is ready for production, Airbus will have already moved on from the A380.