Thursday, March 4, 2010
Okay, I know it's not that big of a deal, but this was the first time I had ever flown on the A380, and it was a lot sooner than I expected. For the moment, it's mostly being flown by Asian carriers which I never fly since I have never been. I remember seeing the A380 at the 2005 Le Bourget air show in Paris when it was still being tested, and now that I've flown it "only" five years later tells you something about the slow pace of airplane development.
The first thing I noticed when walking through terminal 2E was that its tail was so much larger than all the other planes in front of it. I couldn't see it, but I could see its tail. When I finally got near by, I took a couple of pictures. Other people were having their picture taken in front of it, which was kind of funny. I was on the top deck or "pont superior," so I got to go upstairs to the higher jet bridge. The A380 has two decks, but the upper deck is not merely for super rich people like on the 747. On top, the configuration is 2-4-2 (bottom 3-4-3) and I was sitting in the aisle, but in one of the pairs of seats near the window. 93-K was my seat, which I thought was pretty awesome.
Was it all that different? Well no. In fact, from the top deck, you feel strangely like you are on a 767 or something. It's a funny thing knowing that there are another 300 passengers sitting below you, our of site. But there were a few cool things about it. One is the personal entertainment system. It's common on most newer planes, but Delta's 767 don't have them, so that was worth changing my flight by itself. I watched Funny People and JFK. One cool addition is a messaging service that allows you to chat (like on AIM or something) with other passengers on the plane. The entertainment system does give you access to the three cameras mounted on the exterior, one facing forward from the nose, one from the tail, and another one facing straight down. That was very cool, and allowed me to see our gnarly off-axis landing (crosswinds, etc.).
It was definitely nice flying on Air France. We were given a menu for lunch, aperitifs beforehand, and they even set up a self-service bar that was accessible for the duration of the flight. I helped myself to some champagne.
The interior of the cabin is nice even back in coach. They have some kind of LED mood lighting that simulates the passing of the sunlight. The windows are larger than normal, and under each window there is a storage compartment, usable by the person sitting next to the window.
While overall the experience is pretty similar to any other new plane, it is a very large plane. Ours had 536 people, completely full. When walking through the jetbridge, it almost felt like I was boarding a cruise ship or something. And when the plane took off I got the impression that everyone around me was amazed; it just seems so improbable.
In summary, I would definitely recommend a ride. Airplane fanboyism is now complete!