BA superjumbo flies into Heathrow
A massive superjumbo flew into Heathrow airport as British Airways became the first UK airline to take delivery of an Airbus A380 - the world's largest passenger plane.
Handed over by European plane-making company Airbus at its Toulouse headquarters in France, the A380 had headed for west London with BA's chief executive Keith Williams among those on board.
With hundreds of flag-waving BA staff looking on and with the sun breaking through, the plane landed at Heathrow then taxied towards a giant BA hangar at Hatton Cross where it parked alongside another recently-delivered aircraft, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Powered by Rolls-Royce engines and with its wings built in the UK, the huge double-decker plane will make its first commercial long-haul flight with BA to Los Angeles on September 24, and its first flight to Hong Kong on October 22.
Those travelling on the plane will find a lot of room inside as BA is configuring the massive, 238ft-long A380 to take 469 passengers, slightly fewer than some of the other superjumbo-operating airlines. There will be just 14 seats in first class, with customers seated at the front of the main deck. They will get 30% more space than those in first class on "normal" BA planes. The A380 first-class passengers will enjoy nightwear, a turndown service, fine dining, a champagne supper and 15-inch entertainment screens.
Club World (business class) on the BA superjumbos will consist of 44 seats on the main deck and 53 seats on the upper deck. These passengers will get 12-inch screens. The 55 World Traveller Plus (premier economy) seats will be on the upper deck, while World Traveller (economy) customers can choose seats on both the main and upper deck. Travellers will be able to choose from a wide range of films, TV programmes, audio programming and games.
Mr Williams said: "The A380 is a fantastic aircraft and an excellent showpiece for British engineering. Our customers are going to love the space, light and comfort on board."
Those aboard the BA plane will be flying on an aircraft that is 79ft high, with wings that are 54% larger than those of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The A380 also has 50% more floor space than the Boeing 747 yet is 50% quieter on take-off. Many who have travelled on the superjumbo have noticed how much quieter it is on board.
Powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, the A380 can reach a speed of 587mph and has a range of 9,500 miles. The surface of the superjumbo is covered in three layers of paint weighing about 500kg. If all the wiring in the A380 is laid end to end it will stretch from Edinburgh to London.
As the giant aircraft pulled up outside the BA hangar, Captain James Basnett waved a union flag from the cockpit as BA staff cheered. Mr Williams emerged from the huge plane to declare: "This is the future of the airline." Those travelling in first class on the A380 to Los Angeles between September 2013 and the end of March 2014 will pay from £3,799 return for their trips, with the first-class fare for the period October 22 to December 8 2013 to Hong Kong starting at £5,800.