The $446 million Airbus A380 is the largest and most expensive airliner in the world. Take a look inside.
- The Airbus A380 superjumbo is the largest commercial airliner in history.
- The A380 was once thought to have the potential to revolutionize air travel.
- Instead, the 331 Airbus superjumbos sold now play more of a niche role for flights operating in high congestion areas.
- The A380 first flew in 2005 and entered service in 2007.
- A while back, we had the chance to take a tour of one Etihad's A380s.
The Airbus A380 is one of the most impressive and yet controversial airplanes in aviation history. As the largest airliner in history, the A380 is undoubtedly a technological wonder.
When the European planemaker dreamed up the A380 three decades ago, it was for an aircraft that would revolutionize air travel with grand visions of unprecedented luxury for passengers and earnings power for airlines.
Things haven't worked out quite as well as Airbus had hoped. Instead of becoming the workhorse of airlines around the world, the A380 has become relegated niche duty for high-traffic airports and markets with congestion issues.
Since the early 2000s, Airbus has managed to sell only 331 A380s with more than half to Dubai's Emirates Airline.
In fact, some industry observers like Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia have gone as far as calling it the biggest mistake in the history of Airbus. According to Aboulafia, the A380 is a poorly executed aircraft designed for a market that doesn't really exist. As a result, the $25 billion Airbus spent on the A380 program could have been better used elsewhere like on a rival for Boeing's next-generation 777X or a true replacement for the aging 757, Aboulafia told us.
Regardless of the challenges faced by the A380 program, the superjumbo remains a truly impressive aircraft. In case you're wondering, the Airbus A380 is the company's most expensive airliner with a list price of $445.6 million. That's more than $79 million more than Airbus's second priciest offering, the A350-1000. The A380's list price is nearly $43 million more than the Boeing 747-8 and $19.8 million more than Boeing's next generation 777-9.
A while back, Etihad Airways gave Business Insider access to one of its A380s on the tarmac at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Let's take a closer look at Etihad's Airbus A380 Superjumbo:
The Airbus A380 made its maiden flight in 2005 before entering service with...
...Singapore Airlines in 2007.
The Superjumbo eventually joined the fleets of Emirates,...
...Korean Air, and...
... Qantas amongst others.
Etihad took delivery of its first A380 in December 2014 and now operates a fleet of 10 superjumbos.
The plane we toured, A6-APA, was actually the first A380 delivered to the airline.
Here's A6-APA at its delivery ceremony. At 239 feet long, 79 feet tall, and 262 feet from wingtip to wingtip, it's massive.
In fact, the A380's height requires multiple specialized catering trucks to stock its galleys.
There were more catering trucks at the back of the aircraft.
Underneath the A380 is a truly impressive landing gear that boasts 22 wheels on five bogies.
This particular A380 is powered by a quartet of Engine Alliance GP7200 turbofan engines each producing more than 70,000 pounds of thrust. Engine Alliance is a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and GE.
Some A380s are also powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.
Let's step on board this beast.
Once inside, the economy class cabin fills the entire main deck of the Etihad A380.
Each of the 415 economy seats is 17.5 inches wide with 31 inches of seat pitch.
Etihad's recently updated seats come with 11-inch seatback touchscreens. If both decks are jam-packed with the economy seats, the A380 can fly more than 800 passengers per flight.
Walk to the back main deck and you'll come across the A380's rear spiral staircase.
Make your way up the stairs and you'll find...
...The business class cabin.
Each one of the 70 business class seats boasts 73 inches of seats pitch and folds flat into a bed at the touch of a button.
Each seat is equipped with an 18.5-inch entertainment screen.
Walk towards the front of the upper deck and...
...You come up to the A380's premium cabin lounge. According to Etihad, it's designed to mimic the look and feel of a luxury hotel lounge where passengers can socialize and even watch live sporting events.
Passengers can also grab a drink and a mid-flight snack.
Emirates's A380's have a lounge located at the back of the upper while Korean Air's A380s have cocktail lounges located at the front and the rear of its upper deck.
Forward of the lounge is the first class cabin. Etihad's A380s boasts two different types of private first class suites. The first is the called The Apartment.
There are eight Apartment suites per A380.
Each suite boasts about 45 square feet of space.
It features a seat and...
... A Divan that can be converted into a bed. The suites all feature 24-inch flat screen TVs,...
...Vanity mirrors, and...
The Apartment suites also have access to the shower located at the front of the upper deck.
But what sets Etihad's fleet apartment from all other A380s is The Residence. There is only one Residence suite per aircraft and tickets can cost more than $40,000 for a round-trip between New York and Abu Dhabi
Why is it so expensive? Well, it's because The Residence is just that. A 125 square foot home away from home on board a plane complete with a living room,...
...Private bathroom with shower, and...
...A bedroom complete with a double bed.
The bedroom is equipped with a 27-inch TV while the living room gets a 32-inch unit.
Passengers traveling on The Residence not only has access to a personal butler during the flight, also have access to a private lounge at the airport.
Make your way down the front staircase and you come upon the flight deck.
The ultra-modern cockpit boasts eight high definition liquid crystal displays supplied by French industrial giant Thales Group.
Incredibly, this beast of an aircraft requires only two pilots to operate.
Like all modern Airbus jets, the A380 uses sidestick controls as opposed to a traditional yoke.
And that's the end the of our tour. Enjoy your flight!
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