The Airbus A380 is a double-decker, wide-body, four-engine jet aircraft manufactured by Airbus. It is the world’s largest passenger plane, and the airports at which it operates have had to upgrade their facilities and in some cases lengthen their runways to accommodate it. It was designed to challenge Boeing’s stronghold on the large-aircraft market. QFlyer’s Mark was lucky enough to score an exclusive tour recently, we’ve shared his photos in this report.
The A380 entered commercial service in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines, on the Singapore to Sydney route. Following on from Singapore Airlines was Emirates and Qantas in 2008, Air France in 2009, Lufthansa in 2010, Korean Air and China Southern Airlines in 2011, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways in 2012, British Airways in 2013 and Asiana, Qatar and Etihad in 2014.
The upper deck extends along the entire length of the fuselage, with a width equivalent to a wide-body aircraft giving the A380 usable cabin floor space of 478m2. This is 40% more than the next largest aircraft (the Boeing 747-8) so it is a significant improvement. In a typical three class configuration the A380 provides seating for 525 passengers, or up to 853 in an all-Economy class set-up. The aircraft has a design range that allows it to fly nonstop from Dallas to Sydney (8,585 nautical miles), and a cruising speed of about 900km per hour.
As at November 2014 Airbus had delivered 147 A380 aircraft to eleven operators, with a further 171 on order. Emirates is their biggest customer, they have 140 on order and 55 in service. The shortest commercial flight route that the A380 flies is from Dubai to Kuwait with Emirates, and the longest is the Dallas to Sydney route with Qantas.
Of particular interest to passengers is the aircraft’s ability to reduce traveller fatigue with features such as a quieter interior. This is achieved with higher air pressure in the cabin than has been obtained in the past. The A380 is pressurised to a level that gives 50% less cabin noise. It also has larger windows, bigger overhead bins and 60cm extra headroom against the Boeing 747-400, and it all helps to give the impression of space, reducing that claustrophobic-type feeling and the ‘dry air’ that can leave you feeling limp. The A380’s interior lighting system uses LEDs in the cabin and can be altered to create an atmosphere of daylight, night or intermediate levels. Overall, Airbus has put a lot of effort into improving the passenger experience.
A380 Economy seats are up to 48cm wide in the 10-abreast configuration that most airlines have chosen, compared with the 747 which has 44cm wide Economy seats. The typical three-class layout accommodates 525 passengers, with 10 First, 76 Business and 439 Economy class seats, although to a certain degree airlines are able to choose the configuration they’d like when they order the aircraft. Of the A380 aircraft currently in service the configurations range from Korean Air’s 407 passengers to Air Austral’s 840 passenger on an all-Economy class plane.
The upper and lower decks are connected by two stairways at either end of the aircraft, wide enough to take two passengers side-by-side which again feels nice and spacious.
Many feel that with these design features Airbus is attempting to hark back to the halcyon days of 1970s air travel of large spacious cabins with luxury service and amenities, which eventually gave way to airlines squeezing in more seats to sell more tickets. As well as the features listed above the A380 can also be configured with bars, beauty salons, duty-free shops and restaurants. Emirates, Qatar and Etihad have installed full service lounge bars for Business and First passengers on its aircraft. This has become a highly prized feature for travellers who enjoy the novelty factor as well as the opportunity to leave their seats and relax with their entire travel party rather than just the person seated next to them. The downside is that the bar area can get a little raucous, so perhaps choose a seat further away if you’re not interested in taking part. Korean, Asiana and Qantas have lounge areas in their A380s for Business and First passengers. Not a full service bar, but there is a selection of self-serve snacks and drinks and a nice little seating area so you can mingle with other guests at 40,000 feet.
Facts & Figures:
First Flight: 27 April 2005
Introduction: 25 October 2007 with Singapore Airlines
Primary Users: Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Lufthansa
Produced: 2004 - Present
Number Built: 147 as at 30 November 2014
Unit Cost: AUD $ 513.9 million
Cockpit Crew: 2
Length Overall: 72.7m
Exterior Fuselage Width: 7.1m
Exterior Fuselage Height: 8.4m
Maximum Cabin Width: 6.5m Main Deck, 5.8m Upper Deck
Cabin Length: 49.9m Main Deck, 44.9m Upper Deck