Lufthansa’s Airbus A380 – The Journey, As Exciting As the Destination
My heart raced a little quicker with excitement. My throat choked up for reasons I wasn’t quite sure. My eyes drew wide like a toddler watching a marching band. I wanted to clap my hands as they passed by, but decorum stopped me.
“Here they come! Kids, get up! Come watch. Here come the crew!”
Twenty plus men and women paraded toward the gates at the end of the terminal. Impeccably dressed in navy blue suits with beautiful yellow scarves and ties, the three pilots, flight engineer and numerous flight attendants that made up our Lufthansa Airbus A380 crew were part of an elite group of commercial flight personnel selected to orchestrate the largest passenger airplane in the world.
I am not an airplane groupie, to be clear. This excitement was entirely different from what I’ve experienced seeing or meeting a pilot or crew, or anyone famous even. But then again, this was an entirely different experience and this airplane takes an impressive team to run it.
The Airbus A380, debuting in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines and in May 2010 with Lufthansa Airlines, is a full length double decker mammoth of an airplane. At approximately 238 feet long and with a wing span of approximately 262 feet, if the A380 were set inside an NFL football stadium the wings would stretch almost end zone to end zone and the body would be approximately one and half times as wide as the field. The A380’s height to the tip of the tail is 79 feet or approximately the height of a seven-story building.
Our Houston to Frankfurt flight is one of several Lufthansa long-haul flights on an A380 between the US, Europe and Asia. According to Lufthansa’s website, other A380 destinations currently on Lufthansa’s schedule include Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Shanghai, Johannesburg, San Francisco and Miami. According to Airbus’s website, other airlines currently flying these beautiful airplanes are Singapore Airlines, Air France, Qantas, Korean Air, China Southern Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and THAI.
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) built a new terminal especially for this new beautiful aircraft. According to local Houston news, IAH invested more than $7 million into just one of the three specially designed gates to accommodate the A380.
Imagine walking down the terminal toward your gate, and the entire last portion of the terminal, which would normally have 3-4 gates on each side and another 2 or 3 at the end, was entirely dedicated to this one aircraft and it’s two multi-level gates.
The set up is extremely efficient and it takes only 20-30 minutes to board all 420+ passengers on our flight. Passengers line up behind several designated signs based on seat row and class. Business and first class have a few rows to the right going through one gate and economy class lines up in another 3 or 4 rows to the left headed toward the second gate. As we enter the boarding walkway, we see through the windows that the business and first class gate leads directly to the plane’s second story while the economy gate leads to the first floor of the airplane.
Once on board, Lufthansa took great care to make our flight comfortable. In fact, other than not having the super reclining first class or business class seats (first class reclines to a full bed complete with linens, among other fine features according to Lufthansa’s virtual tour), our economy seats were comparable to any other domestic airline first class seat we’ve experienced.
Our family was comfortable in our spacious area with more than enough leg room to stretch our long legs. Even our toddler could lay down across her seat comfortably enough to sleep for 7 hours!
The kids were more than happy to watch cartoons, movie after movie and play games on personal TVs on the seat backs in front of them. And they too slept for more than half of the 10-hour flight, a testament to the comfort they were offered (OK, and maybe also to the Benadryl we gave them…our older kids at least). But, in case that wasn’t enough, the flight attendants brought around age-appropriate kits for their entertainment including puzzles, colored pencils and an activity book.
Every seat in economy class had its own bagged blanket and pillow and there were plenty of restrooms that you never had to wait more than a few minutes to use them, if at all.
When dinner was served, my husband and I were pleased to find out complimentary wine would be served. We later discovered complimentary wine, juice, and snacks were offered in the galley throughout the flight, a treat we received only in first class on previous international flights.
We were especially surprised at the after-dinner treats:
“Why yes! I would like a Bailey’s on the rocks. And hubby, would you like a glass of cognac?”
“Why yes, I would like a glass of cognac, thank you.”
The airplane was extremely quiet and smooth. As we took off, you could barely feel the weight of the plane or push of the engines and, despite sitting near the engines on the wings, you could barely hear them. In fact, we had to look out the window to confirm we had in fact taken off.
We could also refer to our live flight cams for confirmation. One of the personal entertainment features was a live feed from one of three cameras mounted on the outside of the plane: one on the plane’s tail which provided the best view in my opinion, a second camera on the plane’s nose which for the most part was pointed into the clouds or darkness ahead of us the whole flight and a third camera on the belly of the plane showing the land, water or clouds we were directly passing over. It was pretty cool!
Our personal TVs also offered a large selection of movies, tv shows, music, in-flight exercises and games. I watched a few new releases and then relaxed to some “meditation” music (though I could have done without the instructional voice over).
The flight went by quickly, I must have slept most of it. I woke up to a full breakfast, but it was not so intrusive that it woke up our kids. They happily slept until we were prepared for landing. We all turned on the live cam to see the snow waiting for us below.
Slowly, quietly, we descended to our destination. As I reflected on our flight, I decided I might just pick a destination next time specifically so we can fly on this awesome plane again. I noticed Qantas has an A380 flight now from Los Angeles to Sydney…maybe that’ll be our next journey.
Here are some great links to learn more about the Airbus A380 and Lufthansa.
Have you flown on an A380? What was your experience? Please share in the comments below.