This entry is the final installment of our 2-parts A380 fleet review. After Korean Air, Lufthansa and Air France, we are turning our attention to Qantas. Emirates and Singapore Airlines. Since our first article, Singapore Airlines took delivery of its Airbus A380 aircraft number 12 on June 17th 2011, bringing the entire worldwide deliveries to 50 aircraft. The Paris Air Show opening on June 20th 2011 provided some unwanted attention to the A380 after Airbus own test aircraft suffered damages when one of its wing-tip scrapped a building while taxiing. Nevertheless, a A380 flight demonstration was orchestrated using Korean Air ‘s soon-to-be-delivered second A380 registered HL-7612.
4. Qantas Airways: the only 4-Class configuration
Qantas was the third carrier to receive the Airbus A380 and began operating the type December 15th 2008. One aircraft has remained in repair since undergoing a well published uncontained failure of engine number 2 while climbing out of Singapore Changi airport on November 4th 2010. Fallout from the incident prompted Rolls Royce, the manufacturer of the Trent 970 that powers Qantas A380s to introduce some engineering changes on its engines design. In the meantime the carrier has been left with only 9 aircraft operating out of the 10 delivered to date. With an additional 10 aircraft still on order with Airbus, Qantas holds the second largest A380 firm order of any airline after Emirates. By adding a Premium Economy Cabin, Qantas is the only A380 operator that currently showcases a 4-cabin product aboard an A380 aircraft. For now the carrier Is using the type on the Los Angeles, London and Singapore routes originating in Sydney and Melbourne as well as on the very important Singapore-London leg.
With 450 seats available on board, these aircraft offer 14 First Class Suites, 72 Business Class seats, 32 Premium Economy seats and 332 Economy Class seats.
The Upper Deck
The Business Class: 72 Skybed seats
The Premium Economy class: 32 seats
The Main Deck
The First Class: 14 Suites
The Economy Class: 332 seats
The individual Suites on Qantas Airbus A380 provide a partitioned personal space in which a 29-in wide seat transforms into a 83.5-in long flat bed thanks to an electronically controlled swiveling sequence. While the seat is facing forward, the bed deploys at an angle relative to the aisle. The electronic seat control mounted on a side panel interfaces with the seat position settings and its 5-zone massaging system. A 17-in LCD widescreen video monitor is also deployed via electronic control along with the light dimming, the dual layer window shades adjustment and the in-flight entertainment system. The seat enclosures reveal wooden-finished drawers and table top and are positioned in rows of 1-1-1 providing convenient direct access to the aisle.
The Skybed seats present in the A380 Business Class use the protruding seatback assembly for storing personal items such as a laptops. Qantas offers First-Class grade pitch of 80-in on the 21.5-in wide seats. Both the 12.1-in wide individual LCD screen and table top are housed inside the arm rest dividing partition. They are electrically operated from extraction-unfolding-folding-retraction. More than one thousand in-flight entertainment programs including game, music, video and TV are available. A private business lounge is available complementing on board premium offerings with a sofa and a 23-in LCD screen.
Premium Economy seats provide as much as 10-in extra pitch in comparison to the Economy class seat. The 19.5-in width is not spectacular, however by offering seats in 2-3-2 rows, along with a more generous seat recline, and a selective upper deck positioning for 32 can help negate the monotony of plain Economy Class where 332 main deck passengers are aligned in rows of 3-4-3.
The Economy class Recaro seats, designed by Marc Newson have in fact been the object of much thought, effort and pride. The 18.1-in wide seat offers enhanced reclining comfort by sliding forward gently as the back support tilts backwards. A foot rest net is deployed from the seat in front in order to complement the 31-in pitch. Each seat’s armrest provides USB 110V power supply connection for portable devices and laptops. Clearly Qantas has invested in all the small amenities contributing to making its A380 Economy Class product stand out. More than one thousand channels of entertainment are delivered through the 10.6-in backseat-mounted LCD screen.
The A380 remains Qantas flagship by incorporating a unique First Class Suite product. The fleet of about 26 Boeing 747-400 entrusted with most of the carrier long haul operation operates with individual First class flat bed seats using smaller 10.4-in LCD screens. The Business Class SkyBeds are also found on the 747 as well as on A330 aircraft.
5. Emirates: will operate up to 90 A380
Emirates was the second carrier to operate the Airbus A380 after Singapore Airline with first service taking place on the New York JFK destination on August 1st 2008. The Dubai-based carrier with an active fleet of 15 aircraft has very ambitious plans for the giant aircraft which it currently operates to London, Manchester, Sydney-Auckland, Bangkok, Toronto, Paris, Seoul, Jeddah, Beijing, Hong Kong, New York and Shanghai. With a massive current order totaling 90 aircraft, the A380 would displace the Boeing 777-300 as the mainstay of the fleet within the next few years. Emirates actually operates two slightly different configurations of the A380, both powered by the Engine Alliance GP7200 family of engine. The fleet currently has 7 Long Range A380 aircraft operating on a 3-Class configuration accommodating 517 passengers in addition to 8 Ultra Long Range A380 aircraft capable of carrying 489 passengers. Both variants retain a 3-Class configuration except for an entire section of 28 Economy Class seats that has been removed from the main deck aft section on the Ultra Long Range aircraft. A third version had been considered by the carrier for medium range service with a 2-class ultra high density configuration accommodating 604 passengers.
The Upper Deck
Both Long Range and Ultra Long Range version have similar Upper Deck seating arrangement
First Class: 14 suites
Business Class: 76 flat-bed seats
The Main Deck
All Economy Class: 427 seats for the Long Range version (517 seats total), 399 seats for the Ultra Long Range version (489 seats total)
With its First Class Suites, Emirates has elevated the scope and quality of product refinement on a category only with Singapore Airline while also featuring on board exclusive lounge and spa. The fully enclosed Suite is, as in Singapore A380 a personal cabin actually using a double sliding door for complete privacy. A refined wood finish theme is used to integrate a personal refrigerated mini bar, wireless control center, dine on demand menu, a wall-mounted 23-in widescreen with a 1,200 channels selection. The 23-in wide seat offers 86-in of pitch and converts into a comfortable bed. On board passenger experience is enhanced by access to a executive lounge and shower spa featuring the Timeless Spa product line with a choice of two shower kits.
The Business class seat as expected extends from a 48-in pitch seating position to form a 79-in long fully flat bed. Each passenger benefits from a semi-enclosed suite-like personal space comprising storage, a built-in mini-bar and independent access to the aisle. the business seats are not aligned in traditional rows of 2; you could think of it as rows of 1-1-1-1 alternating with rows of 1-2-1. the net result is a seemingly more spacious utilization of already abundant floor space.
Emirates Economy seating showcases the Ice in-flight entertainment system integrating 1200 channels of entertainment programs with sms and email capabilities delivered via a 10.6-in LCD screen. On the A380 pitch allows 32-in and width 18-in.
Emirates has achieved a remarkable level of product consistency throughout its fleet, sustaining the First Class and Business Class seats not only on the flagship A380 but across its Airbus 340-500 and Boeing 777-200LR fleet as well while other older aircraft like the A340-300 and early 777-200 include deeply-reclining sleeper seats and sleeperette seats for premium passengers.
Fleet and Network
Emirates has built its network around the Boeing 777, currently operating as many as 87 of the type. However the massive order of 90 Airbus A380 indicates the giant airliner will fly most of the carrier’s destination in years to come, complemented by the 70 Airbus A350 XWB on order.
6. Singapore Airlines: the Innovator
Singapore Airlines was the “first to fly” the Airbus A380-800 in on October 15th 2007. Having selected the Rolls Royce Trent 970 engines and defined a 3-Class 471 seating capacity, the airline currently operates 11 aircraft out of the 19 it has ordered. The A380 destination network includes London, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Sydney Melbourne, and Zurich and soon Los Angeles.
Business Class: 60 Flat Bed seats
Economy Class: 88 seats
First Class: 12 Suites
Economy Class: 311 seats
Singapore Airlines First Class applies the Suite concept to the fullest by offering a fully enclosed personal cabin with two sliding doors and window blinds. The fine leather and abundant wood finish provide for a luxurious experience. The 23-in wide LCD screen blends in finely with the wall opposite the passenger seat. It is positioned for convenient viewing from a seating or a sleeping position. The A380 made possible the Introduction of a 78-inx28-in bed on a regular passenger transport airplane. Amenities include a with full size pillow, the state-of-the-art KrisWorld Audio Video On Demand entertainment system and the Givenchy’s designed beddings, sleeper suit and bedroom slippers. The Singapore Airlines Business Class seat also referred to as its “latest long haul business class” is in our opinion a bona fide First Class Cabin product due to the imposing frame that surrounds the 34-in wide, 55-in pitch seat. This product compares favorably with First Class Suite encountered on other operators’ A380. When transformed, the bed betrays little of its true origin as a seat. The flight experience is enhanced by a 15.4-in wide LCD screen neatly fitted onto the preceding seat back-support frame. The Economy Class offers a 19-in wide seat with 32-in of pitch with seatback-mounted handset, personal and non-intrusive reading light and in-seat power supply with the 10.6-inch personal screen providing 1,000 channels of KrisWorld entertainment.
The Singapore Airline brand, known for delivering the highest quality of standards offers Suites uniquely on the A380. This proposition surpasses the 35-in wide First Class seat product currently flying on its newest 777-300ER and refitted on some older 777-300. Older747-400 have their own leather and wood finish flat bed First Class product seat while the 777-200ER have a 60-in pitch seat and some selected 777-300 have the 64-in pitch seat accompanying the 10.4-in LCD screen. The solid Long Haul Business Class product found on the A380 is the mainstay of the long haul fleet of 777-300ER aircraft and the all-business class A340-500 aircraft flying the 17 hours long Singapore-LA route. Older Business Class products are found on 777-200ER and 747-400 offering a seat pitch of 58-inches and a bed width of 27-inches.
The A380 has allowed the Suite concept to take a firm foothold enhancing carriers branding strategies. Although we noted a variety of approaches being applied specifically to each carrier. Singapore Airline and Emirates have delivered small individual rooms, Korean Air and Qantas have retained the emphasis on privacy albeit with some limits. In our view Lufthansa new First Class seems to espouse the Suite concept without the application of partitioning devices nor walls. After having withdrawn its First Class seats from its entire long haul fleet, Air France’s A380 have remained the exception. The measure alone has consolidated the aircraft flagship status. This move is also a vote of confidence for the rest of the long haul fleet (particularly the 777-300ER0 where the Business Class is now being propelled to the forefront of premium passenger travel. Qantas 4-Class cabin may actually suggest that an expanded Premium Economy class may enable the A380 ‘game changer’ attribute. Already by establishing the A380 as its fleet workhorse in the years to come, Emirates will be in a position to positively disrupt standards of on-board services and products throughout the entire industry.