The A380's upper deck extends along the entire length of the fuselage, and its width is equivalent to that of a widebody aircraft. This allows for an A380-800's cabin with 478 square metres (5,145.1 sq ft) of floor space; 49% more floor space than the current next-largest airliner, the Boeing 747-400 with 321 square metres (3,455.2 sq ft), and provides seating for 525 people in a typical three-class configuration or up to 853 people in all-economy class configurations. The A380-800 has a design range of 15,200 km (8,200 nmi; 9,400 mi), sufficient to fly from New York to Hong Kong for example, and a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (about 900 km/h or 560 mph at cruising altitude).
As of September 2011 there had been 236 firm orders for the A380, of which 57 have been delivered. The largest order, for 90 aircraft, was from Emirates.
In the summer of 1988, a group of Airbus engineers led by Jean Roeder began work in secret on the development of an ultra-high-capacity airliner (UHCA), both to complete its own range of products and to break the dominance that Boeing had enjoyed in this market segment since the early 1970s with its 747. McDonnell Douglas unsuccessfully offered its smaller, double-deck MD-12 concept for sale. Roeder was given approval for further evaluations of the UHCA after a formal presentation to the President and CEO in June 1990. The megaproject was announced at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show, with the stated goal of 15% lower operating costs than the 747-400. Airbus organised four teams of designers, one from each of its partners (Aérospatiale, Deutsche Aerospace AG, British Aerospace, CASA) to propose new technologies for its future aircraft designs. The designs would be presented in 1992 and the most competitive designs would be used.
In January 1993, Boeing and several companies in the Airbus consortium started a joint feasibility study of an aircraft known as the Very Large Commercial Transport (VLCT), aiming to form a partnership to share the limited market. This joint study was abandoned two years later, Boeing's interest having declined because analysts thought that such a product was unlikely to cover the $15-billion in development costs. Despite the fact that only two airlines had expressed public interest in purchasing such a plane, Airbus was already pursuing its own large plane project. Analysts suggested that Boeing instead would pursue stretching their 747 design, and that air travel was already moving away from the hub and spoke system that consolidated traffic into large planes, and toward more non-stop routes that could be served by smaller planes.
In June 1994, Airbus began developing its own very large airliner, designated the A3XX. Airbus considered several designs, including an odd side-by-side combination of two fuselages from the A340, which was Airbus’s largest jet at the time. The A3XX was pitted against the VLCT study and Boeing’s own New Large Aircraft successor to the 747. From 1997 to 2000, as the East Asian financial crisis darkened the market outlook, Airbus refined its design, targeting a 15 to 20% reduction in operating costs over the existing Boeing 747–400. The A3XX design converged on a double-decker layout that provided more passenger volume than a traditional single-deck...