The -900 will carry 650 passengers in a standard multi-class configuration and 900 passengers if filled with with economy-only seating – although a 1,000 seat version is also on the drawing board, with Lufthansa and Air France-KLM already lining up for this model.
The aircraft is essentially a stretched version of the A380-800, measuring 79.4m from tip to tail -- 6.4m (the length of a shipping container) more than today's superjumbo. According to Louis Gallois, chief executive of EADS, expanding the already huge A380-800 to even larger variants was the plan from the start.
One indication of this is the A380's enormous 79.8m (261.8 foot) wingspan -- some 11m longer than Boeing's latest jumbo, the 747-8 Intercontinental – with the oversized wing believed to be designed to allow for the new ultra-big models now on the drawing boards.
The '900' variant was confirmed by Airbus chief John Leahy in 2007, though with no firm availability date, and there are persistent whispers of an even longer and higher-capacity A380-1000. These supersized aircraft are central to Airbus' belief that the global travel market will settle on using 38 cities as "mega-hubs" for long-haul travel – each of which will cater to more than 10,000 passengers per day – with other destinations being reached by transfers.
Chris Emerson, Airbus' Senior Vice President for Strategy and Forecast, said the industry needed to provide more seats on larger planes to serve those mega-hubs.
The Airbus A380-800 was initially though to be too big for airports to cope with, and pundits predicted boarding and disembarking would take much longer than current 747s. However, an intensive program of airport upgrades and new terminals allowing for multi-corridor boarding proved the pundits wrong.