Earlier in 2008 when I heard that Emirates was going to be flying the A380 to Auckland, I quickly got my hopes up and decided to save up for this trip – being on the first commercial A380 flight into New Zealand. Taking no notice of any future sales which may have saved a bit of money, I booked early to prevent me from missing out on flying on the inaugural A380 flight. If it wasn’t for my eagerness to fly in the new Air New Zealand cabin, I would have booked return flights on Emirates.
This was to be my first experience on the A380, and my second with Emirates. Emirates is a well known airline. They sponsor many major sporting clubs and events right around the world. With their route structure stretching from Dubai to as far away as Auckland and Christchurch in the south east and Los Angeles to the west, their coverage of the world is substantial. Emirates’ services to Australia and New Zealand as of 2008 comprised of 777-200LRs, 777-300s, 777-300ERs, A340-500s and A380s. Since their introduction on the New Zealand stage back in 2003, the airline has come a long way and has become a popular choice. Emirates operates 3 daily services to Auckland – one each from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne; now with an A380/77L and 2x A345s which means all flights departing from AKL are a one stop service to Dubai. This shows how far things have moved because by October 2013, AKL will be operated by 3 daily A380s.
I had this flight booked long before I had my outbound flight booked and I had a lot of time to adjust my seat to a place I thought would be both memorable and give what were intended to be good pictures of the wing and the outside. Emirates’ website is very easy to use and once again, I’m grateful for the “manage booking” feature. First of all I chose the front cabin but then had second thoughts. I then opted for the 2nd row of the 2nd cabin as I thought I’d be able to get pictures down the front of the wing. The seat in front or behind would have been a better decision after having a seat around the wing area. Once again a window seat was imperative and I was really hoping for an empty seat next to me.. Such a rarity on an inaugural! But obviously this wasn’t to be. There’s also an online check in function but I didn’t have a printer so I resorted to the conventional check in method. Sydney Airport is the largest airport in Australasia. It is the home of Qantas and many airlines have more than one international flight daily here such as Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Thai and United Airlines. Sydney has 2 piers – one mainly for Qantas and One World partners and the other for Star Alliance and other airlines. The international terminal went through a huge overhaul during the time I was there for this trip. If you checked in at the northeast check in counters and wished to go to what is left of the food court, you’d be walking a very long way to get there and you may choose to also take a shortcut through the duty free shop. The one good thing about Sydney Airport is the observation deck. Even though Qantas’ First Class Lounge covers a main taxiway in which a lot of the A380s use, it still gives a good view during the afternoon. Check In Area
The Stylish QF First Check In Area Far End Check In Counters Looking Towards The Non-Qantas Pier Immigration Area Arrivals Hall Qantas First Class Lounge With my alarm set for 5:45am, I was so eager to get on this plane that I woke up before my alarm and had breakfast. I arrived at the international terminal around 6:30. Along the way, a few banners and billboards had “Welcome to all passengers flying on Emirates’ Inaugural A380 Flight” and “Sydney Airport Welcomes The Emirates A380” or similar on them. With Emirates using an entire row of check in counters at Sydney Airport (Zone H), they had a band set up and playing at the end of that row. It was a nice touch with some music filling up the check in area. The check in queue wasn’t very long so I got in straight away to check in my luggage so I had plenty of time to try and watch the A380 land at the lookout area and then wander through immigration towards the gate. Welcoming Party Economy Check In Boarding Pass QF A380, 744 And Air Niugini 75W LA A343 Inbound From AKL A Mini Crowd To Watch The Inaugural EK A380 Into Sydney Annoying QF Lounge, EK A380 Wingtip The immigration staff were crabby and telling people to shift along to designated booths rather than allow a small queue to build up and allocate people to the most efficient people so that everyone would get through when they should have. I was forced into making a new line with a person taking forever and watched someone process 3 groups of people before I was even served. After the hassle of immigration, I went straight to the gate to see the massive mob of people waiting around the gate to board the plane. Ok I admit that there was also a Thai 777-200 boarding at around the same time as us but the masses of people in one place stunned me. It looked like people were starting to queue as they were sorting out the chocolates for the passengers and soon after they announced that boarding would commence in about 15 minutes time. This is when I went for a wander and took a few more pictures around the terminal. Just Through Immigration SQ 744 Gate 61 Etihad Airways A345 Virgin Atlantic A346 EK Staff Preparing Inaugural Chocolates The Increasing Crowd For The Flight SQ Lounge “Unique Australian Gifts”
The Massive Crowd At Gate 61 OZ 772 Boarding in Economy is done in zones, depending on where you are destined to sit. It seems as though the zones are filled first from the ends and then they start filling up from the back. I was in zone D which was the area just behind the jet way. First and Business class passengers could go directly to the gate and down their side of the jet way to board the plane. Economy was done first with those with children (I couldn’t imagine taking kids into a queue with so many people) then from zones A through to D or E, I believe. With the boarding for Economy done in zones, it seemed as though the plane was less packed than it was. Everyone received a small box of chocolates as they walked onto the jet way. This is all they gave for an inaugural flight – I thought they could have given more to make it feel more special. It took me 5 minutes to get to the other end of the jet way!
Flight Information 2 Feb 2009
Routing: Sydney – Auckland (SYD-AKL)
Scheduled Time of Departure: 0830hrs
Actual Time of Departure: 0849 approx (pushback), 0910 (rotate)
Scheduled Time Of Arrival: 1330
Flight Time: 2 hr 36 min
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Emirates was the second airline to receive the A380. EDD was the 4th A380 in their fleet: delivered on 30 December 2008, making it just over a month old when this flight was taken. It is also the 20th A380 frame. It was very clean, spacious and looked new. Emirates manages to squeeze 399 passengers in Economy in the lower deck and also 14 in First and 76 in Business in the upper deck. This is only their ultra-long haul configuration too! The configuration of 3-4-3 makes it look and feel a lot like being in a 747 but with a few more features which make it much more modern looking. The newer style overhead bins and the lights telling you if the toilets are vacant or not are just a couple of the things differentiating the A380 from the 747. The walls are pretty vertical, as seen in the picture below.
The Long Walk To The Plane
Slide Deploys From Here
First Step Into The A380
Emirates is proud of their ICE entertainment system and now has what they call ICE Digital Widescreen for their 77L and A380 aircraft so far. The system is extremely good with such a wide variety of movies, TV shows, music and games that it’d take someone many flights to get through them all. The screen, on closer inspection, is widescreen (16:9) and the quality of the picture is great. The PTV is much bigger than the ones in the 77W and so far it’s the biggest PTV I’ve had in Economy. The system also has a function which enables you to view photos, listen to music or view PDFs via USB. The Airshow function is brilliant. It’s so detailed and much more advanced than anything I have seen. Emirates’ IFE system is the best in the world. Even the remotes in Economy have little LCD screens telling you what movie/song is playing etc. It has a phone and a keyboard at the back of the remote and is easy to use apart from the little joystick – comparable to Sony Ericsson’s older mobile phones which had problems with joysticks breaking. But it is touch screen and there’s no real need to use the joystick unless you can’t be bothered reaching forward and touching the screen.
Emirates’ Economy seat is extremely comfortable. I’d say the most comfortable Economy seat I’ve sat in. Even with only 32 inches of legroom, the seat is remarkably soft and full of padding which helps in reducing the feel of the acceleration during takeoff. You just sink back into the seat. Emirates has gone the way of the new Economy seats which slide forward as you recline. It is very comfortable. The seat width of 18 inches gives you just that little bit more room which is more than ample for someone like me. The headphone jack happens to be at the end of the armrest facing forward. The position of this is good as the position is one which can’t be easily bumped. Every seat has power but I wonder how many people would need to use it on a < 3 hr flight. The tray table is folded in two like the Air New Zealand one, most likely to increase space for the PTV. The only thing I found which was not very ergonomic was the cup holder. It was hard to open and I was afraid I’d break it. It also swivels, probably in an attempt to lessen spills in times of turbulence but it wasn’t very big and could probably only hold the small cups Emirates gives out with the drinks. The windows on the A380 from the inside are deceptively large. The inside bit looks massive but when you take a closer look front on, the window loses a lot of its area (take a look at following pictures). It does mean the cabin feels less claustrophobic but it’s a real hassle trying to take photos outside. Quite clever by Airbus to lessen the claustrophobia by artificial means!
The Deceptively Small Window
One of the FAs told me to take as many photos as I wanted before we were ready for pushback. I really wonder if they had exposure to inaugural flights before or this A380 hype had already got some getting used to. But it was great how they didn’t get in the way of anyone trying to take photos or have a great time on board. A great start to my great, albeit short, journey. Pushback began seven minutes after I had entered the cabin meaning that (obviously) most people were already on board. The safety video was playing as we started to taxi but the spooling up of the engines was so quiet I was amazed that we were already moving under our own power! I didn’t notice a flick of the lights either from when the power source gets transferred from the auxiliaries/gpu to the plane’s own power.
During the taxi, I was able to snap a few “comparison” shots of the side by side VS A346 and SQ A380 (and to a lesser extent, a QF 744 behind that) aircraft. Although one must take into account parallax and the fact that one is much closer to you than the other, it still gives quite a good indication of the size of the whale. From front on it is clear that the tail stretches into the heavens above and the intimidating size seems as though it’d have trouble getting off the ground. The side on shot reveals the stubbiness of the plane when put alongside the longest passenger plane – the A340-600. And somewhere behind that whale lay a 747-400. Shortly after passing the hard stands for planes which would depart later on in the day, we crossed the motorway and to my surprise the wing was overhanging the taxiway by many metres! I started to wonder what it’d be like to be driving when an A380 was taxiing and looking straight up to see a massive wing. No wonder the runway back home in Auckland had to be widened to allow for the A380. I have no idea how it’d cope landing on the secondary runway if the main one was put out of use! It just looks too big. We turned onto the runway and it seemed like we used less than half of the runway before we rotated and headed for Auckland. It didn’t feel as though it had as much power but by the sight of it lifting so quickly, it must have been powerful. The load factor must have been about 95% in Economy and from reports of the upper deck, F and J were packed too. A quick bank to the left over Balmain followed by a few more right banks led us to the Tasman Sea, bound for Auckland.
Air Bridges Disengaged
Pushback While SQ A380 Is Towed To Park
TG772 To BKK As TG994 and EK 77W To CHC As EK418
Heavies At The Parking Bay: VS A346, SQ A380, QF 744, EY A345, Fed Ex MD11
The A380 Dwarfing The Other Jets
The Long A346 vs The Stubby A380
Approaching The Motorway Overpass
Rotate! Effortless Climb
Manly, The Gap And Bondi Beach All In One Shot
Soon after, the FAs came around with hot towels. 15 minutes after takeoff and the menus were handed out. It was another half an hour when meals began appearing and I was watching many carts make their way down the aisle to the cabins behind us. The Trans Tasman leg on all flights departing Australia have a brunch service, probably due to the fact a few passengers coming in from Dubai would have already eaten breakfast and it seemed getting a bit late for breakfast. However it was basically my lunch and I was starving by the time they came around. On the menu today (flights leaving Sydney bound for New Zealand) was:
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Swiss Cheese Omelette
-A light and fluffy omelette filled with Swiss cheese and served with a tangy capsicum sauce, green beans, sautéed button mushrooms and mini croquette potatoes
Creamy Chicken Korma
-Served with fragrant saffron rice and seasonal vegetables
Raspberry Marble Cake
-Vanilla and raspberry marble cake with chocolate icing and berry coulis
-Tea Or Coffee
I opted for the chicken korma. I found it weird that when they were bringing tea and coffee around they didn’t mention anything about their other beverages such as soft drink, wines and beers etc that they had in their carts. I asked for a coffee and was very satisfied with the meal in general. Both meals looked good after having a glimpse at my neighbour’s omelette. Not only did the chicken korma get close to filling me up, it tasted good as well. One thing I did find was that the trays didn’t seem to match the tables and I think they were sitting on the top of one of the bumps made to prevent things from falling off the table. This made it a little difficult when trying to do a few things but I managed not to spill anything.
The flight attendants allowed about 40 minutes for eating and I was done long before the half way stage. Confined to my window seat until our row was clear of trays, I had a look through the IFE and out the window too. I tried to create the least disturbance to my neighbours as it seems like they had been on this flight all the way from Dubai and probably London or something before that. But as soon it was cleared, I immediately got out of my seat for a look around the massive Economy cabin.
View From Seat
Front Section Again
Holes For LED Mood Lighting 'stars'
Emergency Door View
And boy was it massive! Still, it seemed as though there was a lack of toilets as there were quite a few people waiting at the very front of the cabin. A few others with DSLRs and I clogged up a lot of the space at the front. Luckily there was plenty room for everyone to stand around in. Once the queues had died down and realised that some were up and about to see the plane as well, I had a look around the toilets. The first one I visited was massive. After having a quick flick through Seatguru, I wonder what SQ and QF do with that space right behind the cockpit. Emirates has very cleverly designed the toilets to maximise room behind the cockpit. Three are located up a small flight of stairs and the ones on each side of the plane are massive – the biggest economy toilets I have come across. A shame that this toilet is now roped off, possibly due to its proximity to the cockpit. Later on I took a look at another of the toilets – this time the one just behind 1L. It seemed about ½ to 2/3 the size of the first toilet I had ventured into. The furnishing inside the toilets is none like I’ve ever seen before. Extremely clean with that premium look to it by using the laminated wood stuff and a plastic bench top looking flash; and also a hot/cold mixer tap with a sensor so you don’t have to touch anything! One thing I didn’t test was the loudness of the toilet. I have a phobia of that loud sucking noise so I flush the toilet as I leave. I think I still heard it..
Over Wing Emergency Exit View
Second Economy Cabin
Third Economy Cabin
Stairs To Business
Rear Economy Cabin
Stairs To First Class
A good 40 minutes was spent roaming up, down and around the cabin. The cabin has a few good standing up areas: One around door 1L (although you may be discouraged as people would be waiting to go to the toilet), between doors 2L and 2R (a massive space predetermined for when people board they have no troubles reaching the other aisle) and also around 3R (much smaller but enough room for about 3 or 4 to stand up and not disturb the passenger). Drinks carts were stored similar to the sight on the EK inaugural DXB-JFK but it was handy as people were pretty much helping themselves – a cart doubling up as a self-service bar!
Sure enough, Auckland was only 20 minutes away and touchdown another 10. I headed back to the comfort of my own seat. The speed and height we were travelling at on our approach to Auckland meant that there was a westerly wind blowing. This was good news for me as I would be able to peer down on all those “muggles (non aviation people) come plane spotters for the A380” and sure enough, there were probably a thousand scattered all around the airport to greet the first commercial A380 flight into New Zealand. The weather looked brilliant as we made our way east and finally back west for our final approach into Auckland. The banks were amazing, giving many great views of the city below. Then suddenly we came across the masses of people parked on the side of the “no stopping” road before touching down on 23L. It didn’t really feel like we were stopping and it was interesting only seeing 2 reverse thrusters at work rather than the conventional 4. We used up the entire runway for the first time in my life: all 3635m of it; and had to backtrack along the taxiway to make our way towards the gate.
Crossing The Waitakeres
Overview Of Auckland Airport
East Coast Of Auckland
HDR Image Of The City
Final Approach For Runway 23L
”Plane Spotters” (Ok I Admit there are a few amongst the crowd)
I’ve Never Had Such A Welcoming!
Just Before Touchdown, SQ 77W Taxiing To The Runway, SQ286 To SIN
Reverse Thrusters Deployed
’X’ Marks The Spot
Taxiing Right To The End Of The Runway
Vacating Runway 23L
I was certain that there would be a water cannon salute but can’t recall any announcement over the PA regarding this. Below I have provided a few pictures taking you through the water cannon salute because I don’t believe many have been inside (and on the window seat) and a lot fewer have been through one in an A380! What an experience. I’d fly another inaugural flight to experience the water cannon salute again!
Taxiing took us to Gate 15. Once the aircraft stopped, everyone decided to stand up and get out of their seats. I stayed put in my seat, mainly due to the fact I wanted to stay behind to look at the plane once everyone else had disembarked. It took them 15 minutes to connect the air bridges to the plane (I was watching the tail camera) and people remained standing for that period of time. It was rather funny. The cabin finally cleared and I was free to go around taking photos. I also snuck upstairs and shot a couple of pictures in First Class.. It’s a completely different world up there. The toilet was massive – probably more than 3x larger than the big one in Economy I was describing earlier. I also got to visit the cockpit, sat in the First Officer’s chair and the FO took a couple of pictures. I can also say I’ve done something in the cockpit of an A380! The tray table with the keyboard on it was out and I put it away. That was so fun. Even though it was only a tray table I stowed. It’s amazing how a joystick can control such a big plane. I was the last passenger to disembark the aircraft on its inaugural flight to Auckland.
Water Cannon Salute Tour
Now We’re Soaked
Evaporation On This Warm (Comparative To Sydney) Day!
Water Trickling Off The Fuselage
I Wonder If There Were Many Delays Due To Lack Of Ground Staff.. 2 A343s Being Turned Around
Trying To Get A Photo Similar To Frankfurt Airport
Yet Everyone Is Standing Up!
Logo At The Back Of Economy
First Class Cabin, Converted Into A Bed For The Media Tour
First Class Toilet, Shower On Left Behind The Door
Until Next Time, EDD
Waiting for me past immigration was the expected crowd at the baggage carousel. It’s the busiest I’ve ever seen a baggage carousel. It seems as though they’d be better off making two carousels open for the A380. The luggage delay only worsened the situation. Another 10-20 minutes of standing around and waiting for bags to come around and then having to go through quarantine was a dampener on this flight but I was still elated from my flight deck experience and the entire flight itself! It was finally home time when quarantine was quickly cleared.
One Carousel, One Flight, One full A380, One Chaotic Scene
Emirates, congratulations on a job well done in terms of overall service level. It was a pity that it wasn’t taken with as much prestige as the true inaugural. The new plane was amazing and it was wonderful to be inside the extremely quiet cabin. One plane I must fly a longer haul route on. Food was fantastic, service great (it really does seem like they put their best crew on this flight) and also thanks so much to the pilots for allowing many of us a tour of the cockpit! One day etched into New Zealand’s aviation history – the day the first commercial A380 flight commenced, is also one unforgettable day for me. The IFE system looks magnificent. Such big screens allow for good quality movies and TV shows.
For taking pictures down the leading edge of the wing, the bulkhead of the second cabin is better than the row I chose but I chose it so that I’d have under seat storage. The back of the Economy cabin has an area of 3 seats by itself. This wouldn’t be a bad place if the flight was empty because you won’t have many people around you but the aisles seem narrow due to the galley walls being on the other side of the aisle rather than seats. It feels quite claustrophobic back there.