Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hey, 380!

Over the last several years, I have followed the development and launch of the Airbus A-380 (Official site) with great interest. Not from a technical point of view, but from a business/strategic point of view.

I've had a deep interest in the airline industry for several years now, probably stemming from my exposure to it as a child thanks to my father's career. And the A-380 is probably the biggest story in passenger aviation this decade. It's the ultimate superjumbo, with an all-economy configuration of ~850 passengers (most carriers operate it in a configuration allowing ~550). It's primary use is to connect high-traffic global hubs - JFK, LHR, CDG, DXB, SIN, HKG and the like. Several airports had to build infrastructure to accomodate it, and it's probably the coolest 'in' thing every airline is lusting for - they're certainly spending additional millions to have it customised and tailored for maximum customer luxury.

After years of nail-biting delays, it made its first commercial flight in Oct 2007. Singapore Airlines beat Emirates (the first company to put in an order, and the largest customer to date with nearly double the number of orders of the #2) to secure global bragging rights.

But why I am writing about all this now?

Ever since I first read about the A380 about five years ago, I've wanted to travel by one. Just for the heck of it. I doubt I'll ever really be able to afford travelling First Class on one, but even the Economy experience is supposed to be significantly better than in other airlines. After three missed chances on the SIN-SYD sector, I'll finally get my first shot on the SYD-LAX sector early next year. A 13+ hour flight - perfect to test it out.

I'm tremendously excited, almost irrationally and childishly so. Most Economy reviews I've read are positive, and I'm really looking forward to it.

I only hope Qantas doesn't change it at the last minute to a 747 because of low load factors, as they have done in the past. That would be a bummer.

If all goes well, next step: The Boeing Dreamliner, possibly in 2012.

Update (08 Jan 2010): Just found out EK is planning to use the A380 on the DXB-JED sector starting 01 Feb 2010. Interesting move, using the A380 for a journey of only about 1700km - the shortest A380 sector in the world. Possibly due to the low number of slots offered by the Saudi Aviation authorities to international airlines in spite of the large demand/traffic, especially during the Haj?