Boeing 747-8 vs. Airbus A380 -- the airline giants face off

Boeing 747-8 vs. Airbus A380 -- the airline giants face off

Now that the Boeing 747-8 has received its FAA certification, here's a look at how it fares against its mighty rival, the Airbus A380
Top Trump: The Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, left, and the Airbus A380.

Boeing's 747-8 Intercontinental, the latest incarnation of its era-defining passenger jet, has received its certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. The European Aviation Safety Agency is expected to follow suit imminently. 

That means it's safe to fly and opens the way for its 36 orders to start shipping "early next year" according to Boeing. 

Also on CNNGo: Boeing unveils the new 747-8i

It's the longest passenger plane in the world and takes on the Airbus A380 head-on. But how do these two leviathans of the skies compare?

We present to you the Airbus 747-8 and Airbus A380 face off.

Figures are obtained from Boeing and Airbus, except where stated.

Round 1: Capacity

Boeing 747-8: 467 passengers, in a three-class configuration

Airbus A380: 525 passengers, in a three-class configuration

The Airbus is the clear winner in this round, and inspired a rather curt reaction from Boeing deputy program manager Elizabeth Lund to Bloomberg, "With an A380, you run the risk of not filling every seat whenever you fly." 

Fightin' talk starts, the game is on. 

Round 2: Length

Boeing 747-8: 76 meters

Airbus A380: 72.72 meters

The Boeing is 3.28 meters longer than the Airbus, officially making it the longest commercial plane in the world right now.

Oh, that's good. Who cares how many passengers you can carry -- anything that can be called "the world's longest" is a winner. Boeing slugs back. 

Round 3: Internal cabin width

Boeing 747-8: 6.1 meters

Airbus A380: 6.54 meters

The Intercontinental has the same cabin width as its predecessor (the Boeing 747-400), but claims to be able to carry 51 more passengers due to its extra length of 18.3 feet. 

However, Airbus execs have pointed out that the 747-8 has yet to pass evacuation tests.

"I am going to be taking that aircraft one day," Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy told Dow Jones. "I want to be sure that you can get out of it in an emergency."

To this, Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx responded that the plane will meet all certification standards for emergency evacuation.

Round 4: Price

Boeing 747-8: US$317.5 million

Airbus A380: US$375.3 million

The Airbus A380-800 sells for nearly US$58 million more than the new Boeing as of January this year, depending on customization and engine. 

That's not exactly small change. It means for every five A380s you buy you could get six 747-8s. 

Round 5: Cruising speed

Boeing 747-8: Typical cruise speed at Mach 0.855, top cruise speed: Mach 0.86 (or 86 percent the speed of sound).

Airbus A380: Typical cruise speed at Mach 0.85 (from BBC), top cruise speed at Mach 0.88 (from

In terms of typical speed Boeing 747-8 wins, but this is a serious slug-fest, and there's no time for cruising. We're giving this one to Airbus. 

Round 6: Range

Boeing 747-8: 8,000 nautical miles

Airbus A380: 8,300 nautical miles

Both planes will be able to cover long haul, trans-continental flights such as those between New York and Hong Kong, Los Angeles to Mumbai, and London to Singapore.

For an interactive map on A380’s range click on Details on 747-8's range can be found at

Round 7: Wing span

Boeing 747-8: 68.5 meters

Airbus A380: 79.75 meters

Airbus chews up the Boeing a few times over when it comes to wingspan. But both are doing clever things.

The Boeing's new wing design claims to heighten performance while lowering noise levels. Its fly-by-wire spoilers and outboard ailerons, pioneered by the 787 Dreamliner, can allegedly save weight.

The Airbus A380 also has a new wing design (at the time of its launch, anyway) that employs aluminum alloys for the wing and fuselage, and composite materials for the center wing box, which reduces the overall weight of the aircraft. 

Round 8: Fuel efficiency

Boeing 747-8: 2.8 liters per seat per 100 kilometers

Airbus A380: 2.9 liters per passenger per 100 kilometers (from Nat Geo)

Ooh, now we've hit a nerve. Both sides regurgitated some rather fuzzy PR when it came to fuel efficiency, preferring to simply say "the competition is worse" and compiling estimates based on different underlying assumptions, especially the average flight length and the number of passengers on board, as this Nat Geo article explains. 

But while Boeing gave us a hard figure of 2.8 liters per seat per 100 kilometers, Airbus didn't respond, so we assigned them a figure of 2.9 liters per passenger per 100 kilometers, as stated in the Nat Geo article.


What does all this mean? For the serious competition fiends out there Airbus comes out on top, five rounds to three. 

Also on CNNGo: Boeing through the years: 10 revolutionary aircraft