On Tuesday, Shashank called me and asked “What are you doing this weekend?” Knowing him, I knew that was probably trouble =p Apparently Lufthansa was going to be flying the Airbus A380 from Frankfurt to JFK for the first time on Monday, SimpliFlying was invited, and the press group was leaving on Saturday. While I love to travel, this was very last minute, but given the opportunity, I said yes, of course.
I didn’t realize, just how incredible this opportunity would be. From flying business class, to a tour of the maintenance hangar, a tour of every inch of the plane, to interviews of the pilots, head of maintenance, a visit to the cockpit dinner overlooking the runway, this was certainly the experience of a lifetime.
The A380 is not new to Lufthansa, nor is it new to Airbus, but Lufthansa is set to be the largest A380 operator in Europe. Airbus currently has 244 orders from airlines, Lufthansa being #3 with 15 planes, after Emirates and Singapore Airlines. Each A380 customer has the ability to customize the plane to their liking.
Welcome to the A380!
The Airbus A380 is a double decker plane with the 2nd floor spanning the entire length of the plane. The two passenger decks have a total area the same as three tennis courts! Economy class is on the bottom floor and Business/First Class is on the 2nd floor. It seats 526 passengers (420 in economy), which is 40% more than a Boeing 747. Overall, here are a few of the features of the plane that make it the incredible plane that it is:
- Reduced noise foot print
- Lowest fuel burn per seat (20% less than Boeing 747-400)
- Overall improved comfort level
- 3 in-flight cameras, including a front facing view from the top of the plane, a rear view, and a view looking straight down. (This greatly enhanced my experience during takeoff and landing, particularly because I was in the middle section so wasn’t able to see out the windows.)
Here’s a look at each seating class
The one feature that stands out in Economy is “living space”, which includes not only the seat pitch, but the overall room and legroom the passenger feels. The seats were very comfortable, and reclined significantly more than other Economy seats I’ve felt, which is important on a long flight. Each seat also has an individual TV with movies, games and TV shows. The Economy Class level is designed with multiple partitions, giving the feeling of a smaller plane, although it seats 420 passengers.
Not only did I receive a tour of the Business Class section while the plane was in the hangar, but I was lucky enough to be seated in this section for the flight from Frankfurt to JFK. What stood out to me in this class, was the superior service and attention I received from the flight attendants. In addition, the seats reclined fully into flat beds (although with an 8% pitch, which I found slightly uncomfortable), and included a massager, which I loved.
The menu, prepared by chef David Burke, was definitely not your typical “airline food”. Appetizers included fresh shrimp or a caesar salad, and entrees included chicken or a red snapper. For dessert, I had “cheesecake lollipops”. Yum! The only negative thing I noticed which was not even to do with the plane, was the lack of water bottles, which is important on a long flight to prevent dehydration.
The First Class cabin seats just 8 passengers. Overall, it seems their goal is to make the passenger feel like they’re not on a plane. The walls are light brown suede and the seats are real leather. There are no overhead bins, instead, the passengers stow their belongings in personal closets. The floors are specially insulated for noise control. One of the features that differs from the Emirates A380 is how Lufthansa handles privacy. On the Emirates A380, seats are enclosed in private rooms, whereas, Lufthansa felt it was important for passengers to be able to choose the level of privacy they prefer throughout the flight. While working on your computer, your screen can be down. When you’re sleeping, a screen ascends between the two seats and partially around your seat.
The First Class cabin also has noise control built in. From the extra insulated floor, to the sound insulation curtain separating it from Business Class, and sound insulation in the fuselage. The other unique feature is the humidity level control – first of its kind in an aircraft– has a significant impact on how tired you feel after a flight. Normally humidity levels in First Class are 5-8%, but on this flight, it’s increased to 22-25%.
The washrooms are more “room” than “wash” to me. Not only was the design beautiful, but a changing room was built-in, giving lots of space to change. There are also urinals, which apparently is a nice feature – and also a first on commercial aircraft!
With a First Class ticket, you are entitled to use the First Class Terminal at the Frankfurt airport. Lufthansa is the only airline with this service, which offers service from security check-in to boarding, including private bedrooms, offices, showers, spa services, a dining room and a cigar lounge.
Takeoff and Landing
Landing was not as smooth as I had heard it would be, but I suspect that was due to the weather when we were arriving. Takeoff felt very smooth, especially given the size of the plane.
Here are my photos from the trip:
Photos from Day 1 (hangar tour, dinner, first class terminal)
Photos from Day 2 (the flight and ceremony at JFK)
Overall, this is an incredible plane – I recommend flying on it if you have the opportunity to! I’ve lost my A380 virginity. Have you?