Top 10 most exciting features of the Airbus A380

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (January 14, 2019): Top 10 things I like the most about the A380.

My favorite aircraft to fly as a passenger is the double-decker Airbus A380, the world’s largest commercial airplane. I am even willing to go the extra mile to fly on it instead of any other aircraft. Since the A380 completed its first (test) flight almost 15 years ago, over 120 million passengers have experienced the aircraft, and they keep coming back. Again and again. Some will even seek destinations just to fly it. And why wouldn’t they? A wonder of modern engineering, every flight on a A380 is an experience that can never be forgotten, as I experienced myself on multiple occasions:

Airbus has even launched a dedicated “I Fly A380” fan website, which also doubles as a booking site that puts the aircraft type as the criteria for flight selection, hereby easing access to the A380 aircraft for everybody. But despite its tremendous popularity among passengers, the A380 is too big, expensive, and inefficient for most operators. Although it will stay in production well into the next decade, its future remains uncertain. That said, the A380 remains an iconic aircraft that is unrivaled in terms of passenger experience, and I hereby share with you the 10 things which I like the most about the A380.

Which one is your favorite aircraft to fly and why? Leave a comment or take my poll below.

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10. CLEAN AIR & HIGHER CABIN PRESSURE

Air quality on board the A380 is better than on most other aircraft. The highly advanced air filters recycle cabin air every two minutes, continually renewing and humidifying it to give you the cleanest most refreshing breaths you can have at a cruising altitude of 40,000 ft (12 km). The air is also pressurized to the equivalent of being at a lower altitude than most aircraft. Typical passenger planes keep the cabin pressure at 8,000 ft (2400 m) above sea level, an altitude that lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood by about 4 percentage points. But the A380 (like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the A350) can keep the cabin pressure around 6,000 ft (1800 m). For passengers in good health, that means less fatigue and headaches, so you’ll arrive at your destination feeling fresher than usual. For those with certain cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, it reduces the risk for a potential medical emergency.

CLEAN AIR & LOWER CABIN PRESSURE


9. FEELING OF SPACIOUSNESS

The double-decker A380 achieves a level of spaciousness that is simply unparalleled, mainly because it is the widest of all passenger aircrafts. Higher ceilings on the lower deck and an Economy Class configurations that (sometimes) use fewer seats per row also contribute to a more airy feeling, with 15% more space for hand luggage storage per passenger compared to other aircraft. In addition, the A380s two wide staircases – on in the front and one in the back – are completely unique and transform the cabin with their space and elegance. Finally, the feeling of spaciousness is further enhanced by LED lighting in the cabin that changes according to the time of day, so it can mimic a morning sunrise or a sunny afternoon, and then offer a gentler light as evening falls. These special lighting effects are designed to gradually alter your natural wake/sleep cycles according to your destination and help to reduce jet lag.

FEELING OF SPACIOUSNESS


8. LESS TURBULENCE

Because the A380 is so large and heavy, you’ll get a very smooth ride without feeling much turbulence. This may sound as a paradox since – compared to smaller planes – the A380 will more frequently encounter turbulent air because of its sheer size, increased surface area, and larger wings. However, in most cases, that will not result in the passengers feeling more turbulence, since the aircraft’s weight dampens the effect of turbulence and its large wing surface is better equipped to withstand the effect of disrupted air flow. So, a column of rough air has to deliver much more energy to shake up a big airplane like the A380. That said, the A380 is not the smoothest plane in the air; that honor goes to the B787, which has a “gust suppression system” that is supposed to reduce certain types of turbulence greatly; in addition, the B787 is built with composites, which disperse shocks more before they get to your seat (compared to aluminium airframes).

LESS TURBULENCE


7. QUIET CABIN

The A380 has one of the quietest cabins ever built. It’s so quiet that even on takeoff, you almost don’t hear the aircraft accelerating, especially when you are seated on the upper deck far above the four powerful engines. The typical ambient noise level in a A380 cabin at cruising altitude is around 60 decibel, about equal to the volume of a normal conversation. The relative quietness of the A380 has been much talked about since the aircraft took to the skies more than 10 year ago, but not everyone is a fan: the A380 is so quiet that it’s stopping pilots from sleeping during rest breaks on long-haul flights. The constant buzz of engine noise usually drowns out the sounds of passengers in the crew’s rest area, but not in the A380, where some pilots says they are being kept awake by crying babies, flushing toilets and call bells.

QUIET CABIN


6. TAIL CAMERA

Cameras are being installed on more and more jets these days, either sitting on the cockpit glareshield, mounted atop the vertical stabilizer or tucked into the aircraft belly. They provide live images of the plane to the passengers via the entertainment system and help pilots to navigate airports. The tail camera is one of the A380’s most loved features, and some passengers (count me in) prefer watching the camera display over the inflight entertainment for hours on end. Located in a housing atop the vertical stabilizer, it provides a wide-angle view of the massive aircraft from above. While the A380 wasn’t the first aircraft with a tail camera (that honor goes to the A340), it has one of the highest quality tail cameras (surpassed only by the A350). Unfortunately, not all A380 operators have it installed; for example, British Airways and Singapore Airlines make the footage of the tail camera only available to the cockpit crew (not to the passengers).


5. MASSIVE FIRST CLASS BATHROOMS WITH SHOWERS

Due to the whale-like design of the A380, the upper deck’s front has a bit of extra space. Most A380 operators use this space for extra-large lavatories, available to their First Class passengers only, featuring benches, large mirrors, sinks, sit-down vanity counters, urinals, and luxurious toilets. Etihad Airways and Emirates went even further with the introduction of onboard showers in their lavatories. Emirates has two shower available to its 14 First Class passengers, while Etihad has only one shower for its 9 First Class passengers (their second shower is inside the Residence; more on that below). Both airlines allow passengers to shower with a maximum of 5 minutes of hot water. If First Class is full, you’ll want to make sure to reserve your spot early to make sure you get the shower time you want. Besides the shower, you also get the amenities you would expect from a First Class shower experience: a hair dryer, luxury bath and body products, and fluffy towels.

MASSIVE FIRST CLASS BATHROOMS WITH SHOWERS


4. DOUBLE BEDS

When Singapore Airlines took delivery of its first A380 aircraft in 2007, it introduced a new, fancy feature which had never been seen before in First Class: two adjoining middle seats that could be converted into a double bed, perfect for couples traveling together. When the carrier introduced a new revamped premium A380 product last year, it expanded its double bed feature. In First Class, couples traveling together can still sleep together since the beds in the first two suites of each aisle can form a double bed by lowering a partition. And in Business Class, passengers can now also enjoy this privilege, since the middle seats 11D/F, 91D/F and 96D/F – located directly behind each of the cabin’s three bulkhead rows – can also be converted into a double bed. Etihad is the only other A380 operator that offers double beds: if you are traveling in one of the interconnecting First Class Apartments, you can lower a divider and enjoy the comfort of a (semi-)double bed.

DOUBLE BEDS


3. FANCY ONBOARD BARS

Remember the sixties and seventies when airlines lured passengers with glamorous offerings like in-flight dining rooms and onboard pianos? Neither do I. But the A380 brought back some of that glamour with the introduction of swanky onboard bars (although Virgin Atlantic was the first to install bars on all its planes, long before the A380 was launched). Onboard bars are only accessible to the lucky few that are traveling in the A380’s premium cabins and are good places for networking with other passengers, catching up on emails, or simply kicking back. Unfortunately, passengers in cattle class on the lower deck are not allowed into these onboard lounges. You only find a bar on the A380s of Emirates, Korean Air, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways. The latter features my favorite onboard lounge – an open-flowing space with an Arabian design, curved counter, leather sofas on both side, and fresh roses.


2. FIRST CLASS APARTMENTS (INSTEAD OF REGULAR SUITES)

In 2014, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways outclassed all of its competitors by pushing luxury to a sky-high new level beyond First Class with the introduction of its ‘First Apartments’ concept on board its (small fleet of) A380 superjumbos. More than just a seat, the First Apartment has a large leather armchair and separate bed of 208 cm (6 feet and 10 inches). There is even space to walk around after closing the privacy doors. For a long time, it was the only airline to have just a single aisle on the A380 with a 1-1 seat layout. However, in 2016, Etihad’s concept was copied by Singapore Airlines, when the Asian carrier introduced a somewhat similar First Class product, which features an even more exclusive ambience (6 larger suites on Singapore Airlines compared to 9 smaller suites on Etihad) and a better suite layout (since all of Singapore Airlines’ suites face forward which is not the case with Etihad Airways, where 5 of the 9 seats are rear-facing).


1. THE RESIDENCE BY ETIHAD AIRWAYS

With a living room, separate bedroom and ensuite shower room, The Residence by Etihad Airways is the only three-room suite on a commercial airline, designed for two people traveling together. The living room has a luxurious leather double-seat sofa and two dining tables. Here, you can enjoy an intimate meal for two, or watch your 32-inch flat screen TV with Sennheiser noise-cancelling headsets, as you dine. A small hallway leads to a bedroom with a double bed covered in designer Italian bed linen. Here, you can get comfortable and watch a movie on a 27-inch flat screen TV or enjoy breakfast in a double bed above the clouds. Before landing, you can freshen up in your private ensuite shower room. A vanity unit with magnifying make-up mirror and hairdryer lets you complete your preparation for arrival. On board, an Etihad Butler (trained by the Savoy Hotel in London) ensures a tailored experience in The Residence from take-off to touchdown.


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1 Comment

  1. I whole heartedly agree. Additionally, the capacity means less flights disturbing those on the ground and avoids airlines squeezing us into narrow smaller aircraft that they’re prone to cancel for « « operational » reasons. Fly the A380 and you’re on a popular route that’s unlikely to be merged with the next available flight… They should be utilized better at airports like Heathrow and LAX.
    Airlines avoid using the to give themselves flexibility, which results in delays and cancellations for the paying passengers…

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