Video: Airbus A380 lands safely

updated 10/25/2007 1:38:19 PM ET 2007-10-25T17:38:19

Size matters. That is the inescapable lesson of Airbus’s new superjumbo A380, which made its first commercial flight, from Singapore to Sydney, on Thursday.

With gigantic wings that could carry an even larger aircraft, a full double-decker body and a generally spacious interior cabin, Singapore Airlines, the plane’s launch customer, took advantage of the expansive scale of the A380, the biggest passenger jet ever built.

As I saw on-board the aircraft’s first flight, the most expansive quarters are, as one would expect, at the front of the plane.

Singapore Suites, which the airline promotes as “beyond first class,’’ is a jaw-dropping luxury product. Located on the main lower deck, the 12 suites resemble posh private railroad cars from the Golden Age in sumptuousness and size. The seat pitch is a giddy 81 inches.

The personal video screen measures 23 inches, the seats are 35 inches wide with the armrest folded. When it’s time to go to sleep, the high-end customer gets a real bed — a mattress laid out specially for the traveller, not a seat that unfolds into a bed. The rectangular bed too, is big, at 78 by 27 inches.

Business class, while it is less obviously deluxe than the suites, is hardly a hardship to fly in. Here, the pitch is a more than comfortable 55 inches and the fold-out bed made up for you by Singapore’s well-trained staff, is conducive to a good night’s sleep for all but the most snooze-challenged fliers, like me.

There are 60 business class seats on the A380 as Singapore has configured it. When not gazing out the window at the rust-red Australian interior — I lucked out, and was upgraded from economy — I worked the proprietary Kris World entertainment system, with its 700 music CDs, long list of movies and TV shows on a 15.4 inch seatback screen.

A hard plastic shell encompasses the 34-inch wide seats and a plastic console facing the flier includes a space for small personal items, a plug-in for laptop computers and a mirror flanked by two small lights. Two rows of lights flank the mirror in the average sized restroom, and a shaving and make-up mirror also graces the restrooms.

The aisles in business class are relatively narrow, perhaps to make room for the wide seats, and the overhead bins are surprisingly snug, not the commodious spaces I expected.

Even on the huge A380, economy is economy. It’s certainly decent, with 10.6 inch video screens at every seat, power plugs at most of the 399 economy class seats, which are 19 inches wide. The seat pitch is a so-so 31 inches, potentially painful on the long haul flights that the plane — which Singapore plans to fly to London early next year — are designed to serve. Slideshow: Superjumbo's maiden flight

The A380 is, as advertised, a quiet aircraft, considering its size. Even over the wing, where I was seated, the drone is noticeably less than other planes. As a heavy aircraft, it should not suffer overly much from turbulence. On the maiden flight, the 455 passengers were at greater risk from TV crews prowling the aisles with oversized, fuzzy microphones than from heavy weather.

Authorities at the Singapore and Sydney airports — which had weeks to prepare for the arrival and departure of the A380 — moved passengers briskly onto the plane and did a decent job on returning checked luggage in a timely fashion, even if the twin bridges didn’t initially work when it came time to deplane the two decks. Premium passengers received their luggage 30 minutes after landing, economy customers a bit later. Sydney laid on plenty of customs officers, who moved the passengers through at a quick clip.

The real test will come later, of course, when the eye of the media is not scrutinizing operations as closely as it did on Day One.

© 2013 Imaginova Corp.


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