) -- Three U.S. carriers are also the world's three biggest airlines --
(UAL - Get Report)
(DAL - Get Report)
-- but little indication exists that any of them have any particular desire to fly the world's biggest passenger airplane.
Four years after the
introduction of the
, which can carry up to 600 passengers, 49 aircraft are flying for
six international airlines,
and orders have been placed by a total of 18 airlines.
None are based in the U.S.
Moreover, no U.S. carrier seems close to purchasing the A380, although Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell said that "eventually you will see some U.S. airlines order it."
the A380 has defied skeptics,
, to the point that its story no longer revolves around doubts and questions, but rather around what destination will be the next to gain service.
The destinations don't currently include Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston or Newark, where U.S. carriers operate their principal hubs. Rather, the U.S. airports with A380 service are all international gateways served by foreign carriers with hubs on the opposite side of the Atlantic or Pacific. These airports include Los Angeles, Miami, New York (Kennedy), San Francisco and Washington Dulles.
U.S. Carriers: Size Matters Less
The U.S. carriers, "prefer frequency over size," said aviation consultant Scott Hamilton. In their hubs, several times each day, dozens of airplanes fly in, exchange passengers and fly out, and the carriers often prefer to serve international destinations more than once a day -- or they simply don't have enough passengers to a given destination to fly an A380.
"When I look at the current crop of managers, the guys running airlines in the U.S. today, they don't appear to be the kind of people who manage their businesses to have bigger airplanes," added Avondale Partners analyst Bob McAdoo. "Instead, they want to manage smaller airplanes and more frequencies to their hubs."
In any case, it seems clear that only two U.S. carriers, Delta and United, are potential 380 customers, because they are the only two operating super large aircraft -- Boeing 747s -- today. Also, both fleets include both Airbus and
(BA - Get Report)
jets, unlike American, which is all Boeing.