Saturday, June 6, 2009

Flying on the A380

As an aviation enthusiast, I had been wanting to try a flight on the new Airbus A380, the largest passenger aircraft in the world. Although Singapore Airlines introduced the plane on its Tokyo-Singapore route last year, I hadn't had a chance to book a trip, as I always seemed to be busy doing other things.

Fortunately, I found a free weekend in which there was a flight I could take using my miles. So I booked it and looked forward in anticipation to June 4th.

Upper Deck

When you check-in online, you are able to select your seat. Using, I was able to see the layout of the aircraft and which seats were good or bad. The upper deck has an extra storage bin for window seats (except row 74), so I was fortunate to find the only upper deck seat left to be 75A. I much prefer the window seat for shorter flights as seeing the planet from above is really awe-inspiring.

2-3-2 configuration noticeable here

When you board the plane, there is a ramp that takes you to the upper deck, not stairs as I had expected. You have to walk through business class, which was mostly empty but looked rather inviting, to get to the back of the plane, where the 10 rows of economy seats are located.

Plenty of Amenities

The seats are typical, but the other features are what makes the difference. The storage space by the window allows you to put all your belongings there, keeping the seat pocket clean. The video screen is 10 inches, with an entertainment system that includes about 100 movies and TV shows, dozens of games, hundreds of music choices (from which you can create your own playlist). The food tray is foldable, and there is a separate cup holder to reduce the chance of spillage. With the storage space below the window, it's tough to look straight down, but you still get a great view when taking off or landing.

The cup holder, storage space, and video screen

The service is what you would expect from Singapore Airlines - friendly and efficient, with a few extras thrown in. I was given a postcard which, once filled out and addressed, would be mailed by Singapore Airlines - free of charge to the passenger. Decks of cards were also distributed. It's just so much nicer flying in Asia than in the US, the meaning of service here is well-understood.

The Flight

We pushed back 5 minutes early and slowly taxied to the runway. It did seem to me that we were moving much more slowly than a normal plane would during taxi. We had to wait a few minutes as they were inspecting the runway for debris, but eventually we moved into take off position on runway 16R. The roar of the engines was muted, as the A380 is the quietest aircraft around, but we started to speed up down the runway. Being on the upper deck, the sound when the wheels leave the ground is not as noticeable, so I was a bit surprised when the ground started moving away from us. We headed out over the Pacific before turning southwest and tracking the coast of Japan, crossing over Kyushu and then straight for Singapore. The first hour of the flight was very turbulent, so much so that the cabin crew could not leave their seats until we were at cruising altitude. Once we levelled off, though, it was a smooth flight the rest of the way.

ANA 747 lining up behind us

Headsets were distributed followed by the beverage and food service. The chocolate orange cake was excellent, although the main course was nothing special. During the flight, the flight attendants regularly walked the aisles offering juice or water. I spent most of the flight reading while listening to my 62-song playlist, which took about 4 hours to complete.

On approach, there was a good view of Changi Airport and the city beyond as we circled to land on runway 20R. The landing was a bit rough, but what do you expect when 400 tons of metal touches down. Another slow taxi to the gate, and the flight was over. It was 7h 20m and well worth the experience.

Overall Impression

Other than the plane being much quieter than usual, the actual flight was just like any other - takeoff, climb, cruise, descend, land. But Singapore Airlines provides great service, and with the upper deck seeming much more spacious with the 2-4-2 seating layout (it's a 3-4-3 on the lower deck), I felt very comfortable here. I'd definitely recommend anyone that has a chance to try flying here, use Seat Guru to check the configuration first, but if flying Sinagpore Airlines, try for an upper deck window seat.

After arrival, I hurried over to Jalan Besar Stadium to catch an S League game, I'll write about that in my next post.



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