Boasting the equivalent capacity to that of a Boeing 777-200 and an Airbus A340-300 combined, and offering a 20% reduction in operating costs, it is easy to understand why Air France has ordered 12 A380 and is using the aircraft on its Johannesburg and New York routes.
Described by the airline as a groundbreaking way to travel to Africa, the A380 seats a total of 538 passengers across first, business and economy class. There are two levels of seating, and Air France’s Affaires and some Voyageur seats are located on the upper deck while the remaining Voyageur and La Premiere seats are on the main deck.
The aircraft provides nine first class seats, 80 business class seats and 449 economy class seats. In first class, La Premiere, there is a changing cabin where passengers can change into their lounging suit before sleeping. There is also a wardrobe where passengers can keep their personal belongings in the clothes bag provided for them. The improved seats allow for easier movement with an innovative handset. La Premiere passengers also have an exclusive bar with magazines and a buffet.
The Affaires (business class) cabin comprises rows of six seats, two on each side of the cabin and two in the centre. The spaciousness of the A380 has enabled Air France to offer an improved seat that is two metres long and has a socket for recharging laptops. Voyageur seats on the A380 are the widest in the Air France fleet. The armrests are 30% wider and the video controls have been integrated into the seat. Each seat has a 8,4 inch video screen and passengers can recharge their laptops in sockets located around the cabin.
The colour schemes and lighting create a relaxed atmosphere, and Air France has introduced a sophisticated lighting system to add to the passengers’ comfort and to synchronize their body clocks. The lighting is at its most intense during boarding and disembarkation, and is dimmed while the aircraft is taxiing to adapt to the take-off and landing phases. At meal times, the lighting is similar to that of a restaurant. Each cabin has its own bars where passengers can enjoy a drink or chat to other passengers. There are three bars in Voyageur, two in Affaires and one in La Premiere.
The in-flight entertainment system is completely new, offering wider screens and easier touch-screen navigation. Passengers can either watch a movie or see live images throughout the flight taken from an external mini-camera located on the tail fin. Passengers in Affaires and Voyageur can download content like flight schedules, airline information, destination guides, games, and more, through the USB socket on each seat.
The A380 burns less than three litres per 100km per passenger resulting in a 20% saving on fuel per passenger compared with the A330. The maintenance and repair costs have also been reduced by 20-25%. The lower fuel burn means that the A380 produces less CO2 per passenger, making it the most environmentally friendly aircraft.
The A380 incorporates cutting-edge technology to reduce noise. Its shape and engine performance ensure that it generates half the noise of a 747-400 when taking off. On board, the noise levels are five decibels lower than industry standards. The aircraft also offers 50% more floor space than a Boeing 747.
Air France’s first flight to Johannesburg departed Paris in February. The airline is using the aircraft on this route on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, with the return flights on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays. One A380 flight replaces the two flights between Johannesburg and Paris. The airline plans to operate an A380 on the route daily from this month. The airline believes the change from 11 flights per week to six will not inconvenience passengers. It also stated that there were no plans to launch flights to other South African destinations.
OR Tambo can handle the A380
In preparation for the arrival of the A380, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) invested more than R200m to make OR Tambo International Airport compliant with new, large-aircraft requirements. To manage the additional passengers, the airport now has four contact stands with dual air bridges to load and offload passengers from the double-decker aircraft, with two remote stands and two 90-metre baggage carousels to handle more baggage and reduce passengers’ waiting time. The width of the runway was increased from 60 metres to 75 metres and the taxiway from 30 metres to 60 metres.
“The aircraft will become a regular feature in our operations at the airport and I am confident that we will be able to handle it without any hassles,” said Solomon Makgale, ACSA’s Group Manager: Communications.
The A380 will result in efficient use of our infrastructure, particularly during busy periods such as the upcoming 2010 World Cup and December holidays, as fewer aircraft can be used to carry more passengers. Being able to accommodate the A380 is yet another demonstration of our readiness for the prestigious 2010 FIFA World Cup,” Makgale concluded. For the inaugural flight, all passengers were out of the aircraft within 40 minutes and all bags had been unloaded in 20 minutes.
Preparations at CDG
Air France spent around €200m at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport on building ground facilities, carrying out the construction work and investing in the necessary equipment to handle the A380. The verges of the runways were extended so that there is no blast damage on the grass from the outer engines of the A380 which has a wingspan of 80m. The organization and layout of Satellite 3 were designed to be compatible with the aircraft and allow for the optimum turnaround of the aircraft in exactly the same time as for other Air France long-haul flights. Satellite 3 can now handle six A380s simultaneously and each parking stand is equipped with three jetways for smooth boarding and disembarkation.
Other equipment needed includes a new catering vehicle able to reach the upper deck, specific truck for cleaning and supply operations with direct access to the upper deck and a vehicle to push the A380. A larger hangar also had to be built to service the aircraft.
Other airlines using the A380
Emirates was the first airline to order the A380 and has ordered a total of 58. It has already received eight of these aircraft. The airline says the A380 supports its operational needs and meets the growing passenger demand.
Routes: Emirates is using the A380 on its Toronto, London Heathrow, Paris, Seoul, Bangkok, Sydney, Auckland and Jeddah routes and plans to use the aircraft on its major routes in Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.
Africa: At this stage the airline has no immediate plans to operate the A380 to Africa, but it is something Emirates is considering for the future.
Configuration: First class offers 14 flat-bed private suites in a 1-2-1 configuration, business class features 76 fully-flat seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, and in economy there are 399 seats in 3-4-3 configuration.
Special features: Emirates’ A380s feature two Shower Spas, which are fully-equipped bathrooms, in the first class cabins. First and business class passengers can make use of the onboard lounge which includes a bar.
Qantas has 20 A380s on order and has taken delivery of six to date. The airline expects to take delivery of another two by the end of this year.
Routes: The A380 services Qantas’ Australia-UK route and its Australia-Los Angeles route.
Africa: Presently Qantas is only focusing on its London and Los Angeles routes.
Configuration: Qantas offers 450 seats in four cabins. There are 14 in first class, 72 in business class, 32 in premium economy class and 332 in economy class.
Special features: The upper deck business class cabin has a private lounge area featuring leather sofas, a self-service bar, large video monitor with laptop connectivity and a feature display cabinet. All classes offer in-seat laptop power and connectivity which allows passengers to send and receive e-mails directly from their personal webmail and hotmail accounts via the laptop or seat monitor.
Lufthansa has ordered 15 A380s, plus five options and is expecting delivery by 2015. To date two A380 aircraft have been delivered to the airline. Lufthansa will commence commercial services with the A380 from Frankfurt in June.
Routes: The A380 will be introduced into the Lufthansa 2010 summer schedule. While there are no confirmed destinations as yet, Lufthansa is evaluating 20 possible destinations with an emphasis on routes to Asia and North America.
Africa: Lufthansa is setting up a special flight for the German team to South Africa for the World Cup and there is a possibility that the A380 will be used for this flight
Configuration: It is estimated that there will be about 550 seats including first, business and economy class cabins, but the details of the cabin configuration are not yet available. First and business class passengers will be seated on the upper deck.
Special features: There will be a newly developed, exclusive, first class; a high-quality business class, and a new, comfortable economy class.
Singapore Airlines has taken delivery of 10 A380s and has nine more on firm order and six on option. The airline’s investment in the A380 is in line with its policy of maintaining a young and modern fleet of aircraft.
Routes: The aircraft are used on six routes between Singapore and London, Sydney, Melbourne, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo. From the end of March, Singapore Airlines will use the aircraft to Zurich.
Africa: The airline is not ruling out any destination on its network at this point and is currently deliberating on future A380 destinations.
Configuration: The Singapore Airlines A380 seats 471 passengers in a three-class configuration. There are 12 Singapore Airlines Suites, 60 business class and 399 economy class seats.
Special features: The Singapore Airlines Suites are exclusively available on the A380 and offer a private space. The suites comprise standalone beds, not converted from a seat. The business class seats are much wider and unfold to full-flat beds. In economy the seats are more spacious and the LCD screen wider.