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Inside and All Around Lufthansa's Massive 'Tokio' Airbus A380

March 3, 2011 at 10:01 AM | by | ()

Steven Frischling—airline geek, professional photographer and travel security blogger of Flying With Fish—just returned from Lufthansa's first A380 flight between Frankfurt and New York. For us he shares his range of feelings on the trip, Jaunted's second-ever special rendezvous with this plane:

The word "behemoth" does not adequately describe the Airbus A380-800, especially when you're standing underneath it, but it's got to do.

I have stood beneath the Boeing 747-400, stood inside the engine of a Boeing 777-200 and flown in the cavernous belly of a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, each of which are massive in their own right. I have seen the Airbus A380-800 from a distance...and it seemed gargantuan even then.

The other day, for the first time, I had the opportunity to explore an Airbus A380-800 up close, at Lufthansa's Frankfurt Technik maintenance hangar. It was then that, upon walking up to the A380, instantly my idea of the airplane was changed from other superlatives to simply "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 breathtaking and the cowlings of the four Roll Royce Trent 900 engines are just staggering in size. It is hard not to stand in awe of the engineering of this aircraft, a feeling that multiples when you're able to walk up to its nose as I was. But most passengers don't put much thought into the engineering of an aircraft as they are focused on one thing—the in-flight experience.

· Economy Class impressions:

While many focus on first class and business class (and I'll discuss them as well), I spent the majority of my time in the economy class cabin. Why economy class? Because let's be realistic; the vast majority of travelers fly in economy class and I know I do when I am flying on my own dime.

Looking at the Lufthansa A380 economy class' seats by the numbers doesn't do this new cabin design justice. The seats are pretty much the same as the old seats, except for upgraded tweaks in certain areas. The 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. They 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.

To really get a sense of the new economy class seats, I settled into the middle section of a row of bulkhead seats, the seats I typically find most uncomfortable on nearly every plane out. After reclining and adjusting the headrests I discovered something, that I wasn't really uncomfortable. Of course I didn't make Lufthansa allow me to spend seven hours sitting there, alone with the A380 in the hangar.

For those flying the A380 in economy class, try and snap up seat 76A or 76K, as these two seats have endless legroom, as row 75 in front of it has no seat A or K.

· Business Class impressions:

For those in business class, the seating upstairs does offer a more "exclusive" feel, however the seats have not been updated from 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 nonetheless.

· First Class impressions:

The first class cabin on board the Lufthansa A380 is a huge change in both 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 earlier experiences with the first class on board the airline's other aircraft, and let me say this: WOW.

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. Therefore the smaller first class cabin creates a much greater sense of comfort and exclusivity.

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 which can be raised or lowered, allowing passengers in the middle seats to have their own space, or choose to 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).

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 clothing stays clean and near. These lockers are also lockable, a delight for the paranoid traveler.

While the business class lavatory may not be something to write home about, the first class lavatories are certainly worth a word or two, or an entire photo gallery. While there have been some stories about the Lufthansa A380 being equipped with the first airline urinal (which 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 are provided with complimentary pajamas), a full size sink and a wall sized mirror, and of course a rose to freshen the place up.

· In-Flight Entertainment & Tech:

For entertainment, Lufthansa has installed seat-back 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 AC Power in the economy class seats, something not available on board any of their other aircraft. The USB plug is ideal for charging your iPhone or iPad—see a detail picture of it here.

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 humidifier reduces the physical effects of flying, like dry skin, red eyes, etc, creating a more suitable travel environment for passengers...and presently no other airline is offering this on board their aircraft.

Regardless of the class of service in which a passenger flies, the cabin will be 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.

[Ed note: If you'd like to see more juicy images and video of the A380, do check out our own previous exclusive access to Lufthansa's 'Frankfurt Am Main' A380, their first, here.]

Read more of FlyingWithFish's Jaunted stories here and check out his eponymous website for more airport and airline security news.

[All photos: Steven Frischling]

Disclosure: Steven was a guest of Lufthansa for a quickie trip on the inaugural A380 flight from Frankfurt to New York-JFK, but all opinions and photographs posted here are completely his own.

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