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Brand New British Airways: Flying the A380 Home to Heathrow

July 5, 2013 at 11:02 AM | by | Comments (0)

Imagine being one of only 50 people onboard an airplane built to fly 500. This was our experience yesterday, July 4, as British Airways took delivery of its very first Airbus A380 from Airbus' HQ in Toulouse, France. Stay tuned as we explore the outside, inside, all around and even BA's other new toy, the Boeing 787, over the next few days.

Where to start? Some airplane glamorshots should set the mood just right, but we've got the lowdown on how one picks up an aircraft ready for delivery (always good to know), and the latest on when you can get yourself a seat, which is sooner than expected.

Pre flight

Ever since Singapore Airlines became the first airline with an A380 back in 2007, the focus has been on the aircraft's sheer size. For one, it's the only aircraft with two full-length decks. Add to that thousands and thousands of miles of cable wiring, endless liters of paint, ginormous wings, two interior staircases, and 469 passengers wondering "are we there yet?" and you've got one impressive machine. It is not, however, until you stand underneath one of those wings, between the two Rolls-Royce engines, that you fully appreciate exactly how massive it is.

We got off to an early start on the big day, arriving at the Airbus delivery center at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport at 7.30am. The U-shaped building, with both floor-to-ceiling windows and an exterior balcony, provided a perfect vantage point to the aircraft of the moment parked outside. Inside, VIP guests were welcomed by Keith Williams, CEO of British Airways, Eric Schultz, President of Large Engines for Rolls-Royce, and Fabrice Brégier, President of Airbus, who all put their names on the dotted lines to make the A380 delivery official.

The A380 (and B787) represents the first entirely new type of aircraft in more than 15 years for British Airways and, according to Williams, is "the start of a new era for British Airways," with "delivery of new aircraft at the rate of one a fortnight" over the next 15 months. BA is investing a total of £5 billion in improving products and services both on the ground and in the air.

We must admit that the superjumbo carries the British Airways blue, white, and red particularly well, and we like the addition of the “To Fly, To Serve” emblem in addition to the Speedmarque and "British Airways" in big bold blue letters on the fuselage. Overall, the livery struck us as crisp and understated, but impressive nonetheless. She's going to make travelers get up out of their seats at airports for a better look.

Taking off

Shortly after the speeches concluded and the signature ink dried, it was time to make our way through security and down the jetway. Destination: a seat in the front section of Club World (Business Class) on the upper deck, but once the seatbelt sign turned off way above France, we had the 1.5-hour flight to spend quality time in each of the four different cabin classes (First, Club World, World Traveller Plus, World Traveller). Onboard, in addition to press and VIPs, was a full crew of 22 flight attendants completely giddy with excitement over finally having a chance to play with this new toy and breathe in that new airplane smell.

All too soon, the landscape outside turned from the English Channel into England proper and we buckled in for the big welcome. The captain came on the speaker, echoing the feelings of all of us onboard by saying, "you have never seen a bigger smile on the face of a captain in your life." An untold number of planespotters and #avgeeks had made their way to London-Heathrow Airport to watch the A380 arrive, but awaiting the plane at an official British Airways hangar were 380 British Airways crew, arranged in the shape of the Speedmarque and all waving British flags. We half expected the Queen herself to show up and smash some champagne, but she's always been more a Concorde kind of girl.

How you can get onboard

Inaugural routes for the A380 were previously announced as London nonstop to Los Angeles and London to Hong Kong in autumn, but the very first flights for both are now confirmed to start earlier, with September 24 to LAX and October 22 to Hong Kong.

Flight BA268 leaves Los Angeles at 9.30pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, arriving at 3.45pm the next day in London. The reverse is BA269, departing Heathrow at 4.15pm, landing at 7.15pm. The Monday and Friday BA282 service is also operated with the A380 from September 27. Timings shift slightly as we get further into fall of this year.

We found fares from Los Angeles to London in World Traveller (Economy) for around $1,100, World Traveller Plus for around $1,600, Club World (Business Class) for around $6,300, and First for around $16,500 for a long weekend in early November.

Next: A full tour of each cabin, advice on exactly which seats are the best, and even more pictures!

We attended the A380 debut as a guest of British Airways, but all photos, opinions, and geeking out is completely our own.

[Photos: JasonD for Jaunted]

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