ANA’s A380s will return to the skies on September 1st, 2020, after a long and unfortunate grounding due to COVID. The airline operates two daily A380 flights, NH183/4 and NH181/2 between Tokyo (NRT) to Honolulu (HNL), a popular route for Japanese tourists.
Flying on the A380 during COVID can be nervewracking. The double-decker aircraft has a dense seating arrangement, particularly in economy class. ANA’s economy class cabin spans the entire lower deck of the A380, with a total of 343 economy seats in a 3 – 4 – 3 configuration.
However, it looks like ANA will go to extreme measures to ensure that social distancing is enforced once the A380 resumes flying. According to seat maps, the airline will sell less than half of the seats in its A380 economy cabin.
You can see ANA’s seat selection screen for flight NH184 on September 1st, 2020 below left. Most seats in rows 52 to 76 appear as occupied. However, a look at the seat map for the flight, below right, shows that the seats in rows 52 to 76 are actually blocked, as denoted by the white “x”.
In total, ANA is selling only 171 out of the 343 economy seats on the A380, while 172 seats are blocked. These numbers may not end up being exactly correct, because rows 71 to 76 in ANA’s cabin are “COUCHii” seats – a series of three or four seats next to each other that fold down into a couch and are sold together. Still, it looks like most of ANA’s A380 cabin will end up being empty.
The current seating arrangement does not appear to be particularly safe, since passengers in the front of the economy cabin are still seated close to each other. However, it’s likely that ANA will rearrange passengers based on the size of the party closer to departure. This is an approach that United has used on its flights to China.
This is not a temporary change either; economy seats on the A380 are blocked through ANA’s entire bookable calendar, which extends through July 2021.
Skeptics may suggest that ANA is simply blocking seats on the A380 in case it needs to swap out the aircraft for a smaller 777-300ER. However, this is unlikely because ANA is not blocking any business or premium economy seats, and these cabins have a higher capacity on the A380 than other aircraft.
It’s not surprising that ANA is being cautious with the relaunch of its A380. The airline has aggressively implemented new safety precautions and has been proactive about enforcing passenger safety.
Hopefully, ANA’s safety measures will help to alleviate traveler’s concerns about flying. ANA’s A380s are beautiful aircraft, and the airline will have a third A380 delivered soon.