The A318, also known as the "Mini-Airbus
," is a smaller version of the Airbus A320 aircraft
, six meters shorter and 14 tons lighter than its predecessor. Pilots who are trained on other A320 variants (the A319
, A320, and A321
) can fly the A318 with no further certification, since it has the same type rating
as its sister planes.
107 passengers can squeeze inside in a typical two-class layout. Because of its lighter weight, the A318 can fly about 10% farther than the A320, allowing it to serve some routes that the A320 would choke on: London-Jerusalem and Singapore-Tokyo, for instance. Its main use for the airlines, however, is on short, low-density hops between medium cities. The A318 has one major disadvantage when compared to other A320 variants: its cargo doors are too small to accommodate standard air freight containers, making it nearly useless for airlines that want to carry big inanimate objects.
During the design process, the A318 ran into several stumbling blocks. The first one, obviously, was the decline in demand for new airplanes following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Another one was the design of the Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, which burned more fuel than expected: by the time CFM had a more efficient engine ready for market, many A318 customers had already backed out, including Air China, American Airlines, and British Airways. While Airbus was hoping to market the A318 as a regional jet alternative, laws in both the U.S. and Europe have kept it in the same class as larger aircraft for calculating landing fees and the like, so regional operators haven't touched it.
Frontier Airlines received the first production A318 in July of 2003. Air France and America West Airlines are the other main customers. The price of an A318 ranges from $39 to $45 million, and operating costs are around $3,000 for a 500-mile flight.