Flying the Emirates A380 in Coach (Part One)

Sorry it took me an extra day to put this together, but it was no easy feat. The A380 is one big plane, and I have plenty to talk about. Because of that, I’ve decided to split this post in half. Today, I’ll cover life on the lower deck, in the economy cabin. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to the fancy pants world of business and first class on the upper deck. I’m also doing things differently this time in that I’m focusing on videos instead of photos. If you want to see all the photos and videos, go here.

You might remember when I flew on the A380 demo flight out of LAX late last year. At the time, I talked about the airplane itself, but the interior didn’t matter because it was just the Airbus house interior. This time, it was outfitted with the full Emirates product, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on here . . . mostly.

But first, let me say this. My seat this time was right on top of the unbelievably massive wing, fairly close to the engines. The noise from those engines was significantly less than I remembered sitting behind the wing last time. It was virtually silent from where I sat, and that was impressive in itself considering its size. This plane feels like a tank, in a good way.

But getting on the plane would have to wait. It all started out slowly when our aircraft was delayed. As we waited for the plane to arrive outside the fantastic Flight Path Learning Center at LAX, we were all of a sudden taken aback by an American 757 landing against the traffic pattern (to the east). Needless to say, it was the emergency landing that the news covered thoroughly. That actually delayed the A380’s arrival by another 15 minutes since they had to briefly close the south runways.

Once the plane arrived, there was the usual press conference, handshaking, blah blah blah. You guys don’t care about that (and neither did I, really). Let’s get to the plane itself. I was seated in coach while my friend and still photographer (at least for this event) Paul Tomasiello from Expedia was seated in business class. (Not sure how he pulled that one off.) So they had everyone in coach board using the rear stairs and everyone in business board using the front stairs. Nobody was seated in first, as far as I know.

Once onboard, the first things that caught my eye were the gigantic seatback televisions. They are truly massive for a coach seat. Emirates has set this up so that the entire bottom deck is a sea of coach, so seeing all the screens flicker in unison was an interesting sight. I walked for a few miles before finally reaching my seat over the wing. (They need water stations every mile or two on that thing.) The aircraft is set up in a 3-4-3 configuration, and I had the middle seat on the left side. Shortly after sitting down, the guy in the window somehow self-upgraded himself and I never saw him again. So, we had a nice empty middle seat.

The economy seat itself proved to be comfortable. There is a good amount of legroom on board, to the point where my knees didn’t get very close to the seatback. I was surprised to see that the seatbacks were stuffed full of inflight magazines and catalogs, so clearly they haven’t gone paperless just yet. Once they do, there will be even more room.

The seats have a nice recline. It’s the style of recline that brings the front of your seat forward so you don’t disturb the person behind you as much. That can be a pain when there isn’t much legroom, but in this case it worked out well.

Let’s talk about connectivity. This thing is seriously connected. There’s a universal power outlet in each armrest and a USB port in the back of each seat. There’s also a place to hang a coat on your seat as well as a cupholder that spins loosely to keep your cup level regardless of the pitch of the airplane.

Then there’s that big pretty screen. You can do all kinds of great stuff with this system. There are something like 1,000 movies, tv shows, games, music, etc. They also have the ability to share screens – which I believe means that you and your seatmate can watch the same thing at the same time on your own screens.

There’s a great map (which may be the same one that Air New Zealand uses?) and it even shows you the registration number of your airplane. That gets the official seal of airline dork approval. There are also three different camera views. One is taken from the nose pointing forward, one is taken from the tail pointing forward, and another looks straight down. I saw this on a South African A340 once before, but that didn’t prevent me from being entertained by it for a long time.

After making myself comfortable, it was time to get airborne. Check out this massive wing. Believe it or not, that’s a wingtip in the distance.

August 5, 2008
Emirates #7224 Lv Los Angeles (LAX) 1204p Arr Los Angeles (LAX) 133p
LAX: Imperial Terminal, Runway 25L
Aircraft: A6-EDA, Airbus A380-800, ~250/489 passengers
Seat: 61B
Flight Time: 1h29m

Shortly after takeoff, the seatbelt sign came off, but I waited for the crowd rush to die down before 051 Me Upstairstaking my own tour of the plane. While we waited, they brought by some very tasty appetizers (mmmm, foie gras) followed by ample, flowing Dom Perignon.

I waited for Paul to come downstairs to visit us peons before we heading backwards on the guided tour. We stopped by the crew rest facility taking up the middle of the last few rows of the plane, passed the row with oxygen masks hanging down, and finally reached row 88, the last row in coach. After that, we took a trip up the winding rear staircase (felt like a cruise ship back there), and finally made it up to the rarefied air of the upper deck.

As I mentioned, this post is getting long, so come back tomorrow and I’ll have all the details on the upper deck. If you can’t wait, you can see all my pictures from the trip here.

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