I kept the title of this post simple because the plane needs no other introduction. We’ve been talking about this thing for years and years now and finally, it has entered commercial service. What can I say about it?

As with all new planes, I want to go for a ride.

The first plane was delivered to Singapore Airlines earlier this month and it went into service last Thursday between Singapore and Sydney. As more planes arrive we’ll see London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and San Francisco added to the route map. Nobody else will even operate the thing until later next year (Emirates), so for now, Singapore is your only shot. Let’s just take a look.

Despite all Airbus’ early promises, there is no gym and no movie theater. No, it’s just a bunch of seats, as most people predicted. Business Class and Coach don’t appear to be much different than what Singapore introduced earlier this year. Coach has the same standard 32″ pitch you’ll find on the rest of their long haul fleet. Business, on the other hand, has a little more room (pitch and width) than the already roomy standard on the 777-300s. But it’s First Class where things are really different.

Technically, there is no First Class on this plane. They’re calling it Suite Class, and it ain’t cheap. You can learn all about it here, but let’s go over some highlights.

07_10_29 sqa380f

The product seems to be similar to what Emirates pioneered onboard – the private suite. Well, it’s not entirely private because the walls don’t go all the way to the ceiling, but it’s pretty close. I wonder if putting the walls to the ceiling is some sort of safety issue? Anyway, it has everything you’d expect with a suite. Full flat bed, big tv screen, etc. But there are only twelve of these suites on each plane and they’re nestled up in the nose. I’d guess that 99.99999999% of the world will never even have a shot at flying this. So what else is there to love about this plane?

The thing I keep hearing over and over is that it’s a very quiet ride. That seems to be the only thing that really differentiates it in the eyes of the passenger in back. Business Class is all upstairs and actually takes up 2/3 of the cabin. The last third, along with 3/4 of the bottom deck is Coach. You can see the seat map here.

Unless you’re traveling in a group of three, it looks like the place to be in coach is on the upper deck. There it’s 2-4-2 instead of 3-4-3 and that makes a big difference for me. Then again, depending upon how many jet bridges they use, that could be the last part of the plane to get off.

A couple other things to note, the fuselage tapers in the back but they don’t seem to reduce the number of seats in each row. It might be a bit tighter back there. And what’s up with row 47? There appears to be only three seats in the middle there with an empty spot where the fourth should be. Maybe it’s a black hole.

The size of this thing is just incredible. Even though it looks pretty stumpy in person, that full second deck means Singapore can get 100 more seats on this plane versus their 747s. Even with that, they have only 471 seats onboard. Still, those extra 100 seats will help in places like London and Tokyo where they can’t add another flight because the airport is stuffed to the gills at peak hours.

I imagine the people at Airbus are happy to finally have this aircraft in service. Congratulations to them on delivering the first truly new widebody since the 777 back in 1995.

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10 comments on “A380

  1. Make that a bed. . .that doesn’t come from a seat. I live in HKG, end up traveling all the time on CX. Ironically I picked up the Sydney morning paper on October 26 in the HKG CX lounge, saved the full four color pages they had dedicated to the A380 and Singapore Airlines. Amazing free advertising. Anyhow, in Asia they’ve been hyping this thing like crazy – full two-page color centerfold advertisements every week in Asia WSJ, Singapore Straits Times, Sydney Herald and South China Morning Post during October. They built up to it – the first week had like just the boring “First to Fly” A380 ads, then once they released the suites the whole two pages was dedicated to explaining them, then they talked about business class, I can’t resist it once I make CX Diamond this year I’m definitely trying that plane. Will keep you posted.

    On another note, I know SQ flies HKG to SFO, but I know for a long time SQ has been considering a non-stop SIN-SFO connection – would that be the A380 or would it be SQ002 that goes through HKG?

  2. They have said that the SFO A380 flight will be the one that runs through HKG. I’m not convinced that the A380 would be able to make the nonstop with any sort of meaningful load on it.

  3. What confuses me about this layout is how they’ve decided to number the rows.
    Suite is rows 1-4 on the first floor, I get that.
    There are no rows 5-10.
    Business is 11-27 on the second floor.
    Again no rows 28-30.
    Coach on the first floor is 31-63.
    No rows 64-70.
    Coach on the second floor is 71-83.

    The fact of the matter is when you’re trying to get 471 people on a plane as quickly as possible the communication challenge seems unnecessary.

    Sure I bet there are some interesting boarding patterns, but this is probably one of the more interesting problems the A380 is going to face. I think the 747s (generally) got around the problem by only having first on the second level, whereas the A380 has coach on both levels.

    I’m surprised they didn’t go number the first floor more or less sequentially (of course putting a little break between Suite and Coach) and start the second floor at 100. It would make the plane seem bigger and would make the easy boarding announcement (If you’re in rows 100 or higher please board upstairs.) Of course the reason they might not have done this is the GDSes may not support four character row numbers. Anyone know?

  4. Well, I had to fortune of watching this little baby whale take off live .. Sky News had live coverage of the take-off in Singapore and I got into the office just in time, a few min. prior to the take off. There were a few of us around the TV by the time the plane was taxiing and … good lord, that thing is HUGE. Seeing it taxi down the runway one girl said, “C’mon, you CAN do it!” LOL. You almost wonder just how it’s possible for something that big to take fly.

    SQ keeps all the numbering in all the planes all the same. For example, in a 2 class config the first biz class seat will still be 11. This way if you have a boarding pass that says “1A” you know you’re in first class.

    I don’t think that 4 page insert was free advertising. However, SQ was apparently approached by the advertising arm to “record this historic event” and all .. so SMH ends up with a bunch of cash and SQ got themselves plastered nearly over the entire front page of SMH on that day.

    This thing will be great for SQ. A few weeks ago I was desperately searching for a SYD-xSIN-EWR ticket on SQ and really had a hard time finding an open seat (wanted that prem. exec. econ and willing to endure the 18 hour flight over a more direct flight SYD-US, not to mention I had to do some shopping in SIN) on the SYD-SIN leg. Our TA at work couldn’t find anything and SQ website was booked full for the second week of Dec. But after a weekend quite a few seats opened-up .. But to me this illustrated just how high the demand is on this route, esp. since as it’s also a hub for QF and BA to LHR. Maybe you can look this up?

  5. Oh, another note to QRC-

    Yes, it seems like everywhere I turn the past few days it’s the Singapore Girl staring me in the face … (Har, I wish. ;) )

  6. Are you saying that the SYD-SIN leg has high demand or the SIN-EWR one? I’m actually not sure how to find out demand info on those routes other than looking at the number of flights out there. SQ flies 3x a day, QF twice and BA once. That’s a pretty good number of flights so demand must be high.

  7. I was lucky enough to attend the media event in Sydney on the 26th of October, getting a full tour of SIA’s new baby. The suites are to die for, but as most people have mentioned they are not as private as you might expect. additionally the bottom half of the privacy blinds in the suites are slightly see thru.

    Business Class Cabin – I would vote it the best in the air, with the upperdeck being my prefered choice because of the seating configuration.

    Economy is nice for economy, slightly wider seats (extra 1.5in 3.5cm) also larger video display, and 2 power outlets every second seat.

    My article is posted here:

    Ben the Business Travel Guru

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