The word “behemoth” does not adequately describe the Airbus A380-800 … especially when you’re standing under it.
I have stood beneath the Boeing 747-400, stood inside the engine of a Boeing 777-200, flown in cavernous belly of a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, each of which are massive and I have seen the Airbus A380-800 from a distance … and it seemed massive. The other day, for the first time, I had the opportunity to explore an Airbus A380-800 up close, at Lufthansa’s Technik maintenance hanger, at Frankfurt Airport and upon walking up to the A380 instantly my description of the Airbus A380-800 was changed from “massive” to “behemoth.”
Why have I moved the A380 into the “behemoth” category? Well let’s go by the numbers. The A380’s wing span is 50 feet longer than that of a Boeing 747-400, the wing area is 3,073 square feet larger than a Boeing 747-400, the A380 stands 15 feet taller than a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy and has the capacity to hold 34,322 more gallons of fuel than a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy.
The sheer size of the aircraft is breath taking and the cowlings of the four Roll Royce Trent 900 engines are just staggering in size. It is hard to not stand in awe of the engineering of this aircraft by just walking up to its nose. But most passengers don’t put much thought into the engineering of an aircraft, they are focused on one thing … the in-flight experience.
While at Lufthansa’s Technik hanger, I spent more than an hour checking out the aircraft’s three separate cabins without the usual interference of other passengers, seat belt signs, flight attendants and of course the general rules preventing passengers from wandering from cabin to cabin.
While many focus on first class and business class (and I’ll discuss them as well) aspects of this aircraft, I spent the majority of my time in the economy class cabin. Why economy class? Because lets be realistic … the vast majority of travelers fly in economy class (I know I do when I am flying on my dime).
Looking at the Lufthansa A380 economy class seats by the numbers doesn’t do this new cabin design justice. By the numbers the seats are pretty much the same as the old seats … except they are not. The new economy class seats in Lufthansa’s A380 economy class offer a significant increase in comfort from the seats passengers may be used to on board the airline’s other long haul aircraft.
The new economy class seats integrate both reclining comfort and the seat bottom sliding out to give passengers a more comfortable experience. The design takes into account the fact that passengers on the A380 are likely to be in their seats for seven hours at a minimum.
As odd as this may seem … the headrests on the new A380 economy class seats are an improvement to what passengers are likely used to. I find myself getting a stiff neck nearly every flight, it usually starts when I sit down and find the seat back lacking the ergonomics my body is seeking, however the headrests on the A380 seats seemed just right for “controlling” my head from rolling around and being uncomfortable.
To really get a sense of the new economy class seats, I sat in the middle section of a row of bulkhead seats, the seats I find the most uncomfortable on nearly every plane out there. After reclining and adjusting the headrests I found something unusual for most economy class seats … I wasn’t really uncomfortable.
For entertainment Lufthansa has installed in-seat personal televisions for passengers, something noticeably missing in the economy class seats on board the airline’s Boeing 747-430 aircraft. To accommodate those who choose to bring their own entertainment on board the A380, Lufthansa has also installed in-seat USB power in the economy class seats, something not installed on board their other aircraft.
For those flying the A380 in economy class, try and snap up seat 76A or 76K, these two seats have endless legroom.
For those in business class, the seating upstairs does offer a more “exclusive” feel, however the seats appear to be virtually identical to the latest generation of business class seats installed on board the airline’s other long haul aircraft. Overall, business class is very comfortable, still not a 180º bed, but comfortable and easy to sleep in.
I know many business class passengers prefer a 180º lay flat bed, but this is not a sticking point for me. I don’t feel myself “sliding” down the seat as some say they have experienced.
Interestingly, the lavatory and lavatory amenities for business class on board the airline’s other aircraft appear superior … but that’s just a minor sticking point. No one chooses an airline based on the lavatory experience (at least I would hope not).
Now onto first … the first class cabin on board the Lufthansa A380 is a huge change of cabin design and hardware. I have previously flown Lufthansa in first class on board the Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A330-300, so for me experiencing the new first class allowed me to compare it to my experience with the first class on board the airline’s other aircraft … and let me say this … W O W ! ! ! !
I am not even sure where to begin with the A380’s new first class. For starters, while the A380 is larger than the Boeing 747-430, the A380 has a significantly smaller first class cabin in terms of passengers served, with only 8 seats in the entire cabin, half the seating of the 747-430’s 16 first class seats.
The smaller first class cabin creates a much greater sense of comfort and exclusivity.
I guess we start with the seats…the newly installed seats are no longer in sets of two, as they are on the 747-430. Each seat has its own privacy walls. These walls can be raised or lowered, allowing passengers in the middle seats to have their own space, or lower the wall if they are flying with a partner. These dividers greatly improve the sense of personal space and cut down on noise from someone one seat over snoring (which I have experienced).
These seats, unlike business class, to lay flat to a full 180º, and are superior in comfort in every way I could test to the current first class seats deployed on board Lufthansa’s other long haul aircraft. Not only are the seats more comfortable and longer than other available seats, but even the pillows are designed for climate adjustment … ie: they know when they are hot or cold and can adjust!
There are no overhead bins in the first class cabin. As unusual as this may seem, it makes sense, considering passengers are provided their own full height locker. Each passenger locker is stocked with not just a hanger, but also a garment bag, to ensure a passenger’s hung up clothing stays clean and near. These lockers are also … well lockable. Passengers may choose to lock their locker for safety.
While the business class lavatory may not be something to write home about … the first class lavatories are certainly worth writing about. While there have been some stories about the Lufthansa A380 being equipped with the first airline urinal (and that is true) most stories have not addressed the sheer size of first class lavatory. The lavatory is broken up into two divided areas, the toilets (plural since it has a toilet and a urinal) and the “salon.” The “salon” is outfitted with a full-size bench for passengers to sit and relax as they change into their pajamas (first class passengers get pajamas), a full size sink and a wall sized mirror, and of course a rose to freshen the place up.
For comfort throughout the aircraft, Lufthansa has installed a humidity-environment system. This humidity system allows different humidity’s to be active for each of the three cabins, each one at a different level. The different levels of humidity have to do with the number of people in each cabin, because economy has more people it would naturally have an elevated temperature and humidity where as first class would be dryer and cooler … the humidity-environment system is factored around off of this to essentially have the aircraft’s environment equal throughout all cabins. As humidity can cause condensation, the aircraft also has an automatic drying system so no one gets rained on in their seat.
The humidity-environment system installed on the Lufthansa’s Airbus A380 reduces the physical effects of flying. The dry skin, the red eyes, etc, creating a more suitable travel environment for passengers … and presently no other airline is offering that on board their aircraft.
Regardless of the class of service a passenger is flying in, the cabin is spacious. I don’t just mean spacious for an airliner … I mean spacious in general. Even in economy the sense of dread some people get while boarding an eleven-hour flight should fade away.
Below are some photos I shot on board a Lufthansa Airbus A380-800 “Tokio” at the Frankfurt Airport Technik hanger.
I must acknowledge that my travel and lodging were provided by Lufthansa