The A380 is compatible with over 140 small and large airports for regular service worldwide, and up to 400 airports when adding diversion airports, demonstrating that the A380 is a very easy aircraft to accommodate within airport infrastructure. This is a consequence of Airbus’ extensive cooperation with airlines, airports and ground service providers from the very earliest phases of the A380’s design and development. From the initial stages of the A380’s design, Airbus involved all stakeholders – including regulatory authorities, ground equipment manufacturers, ground handlers, airport authorities and airlines – to ensure the jetliner is optimised for smooth, safe and efficient airport operations, while offering better performance with minimised take-off/landing ground run, improved climb and higher initial cruise altitude.
Although (like some other very large aircraft) the A380 is classified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a Code F aircraft (based on wingspan and outer main landing gear width) and by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration as a Design Group VI aircraft, many A380 scheduled operations occur on airport infrastructures that do not comply with ICAO Code F (respectively DG-VI) design requirements/recommendations.
Specifically, A380 Airport Compatibility Group (AACG) recommendations have been validated by key European authorities and have been spread across many regions. In the U.S., a similar process has been followed by airports, submitting Modification of Standards dossiers to the FAA. These operational recommendations – which are less stringent than design ones – allow for movements on Code E (resp. DG-V) facilities (which are designed for smaller wide-body aircraft such as the A330 and A350 XWB) with no or little changes to existing airport infrastructure.
In addition, the A380 main landing gear design (20 wheels and a superior geometry validated by a dedicated experimental program) makes it very friendly to the airport pavement, and as such the jetliner has lower pavement loading figures (ACNs - Aircraft Classification Numbers) when compared to other smaller aircraft, despite its higher operating weight.