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.
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.