Chris Stone, Video by Erica Elkhershi, The Daily Telegraph, September 24, 2013
Let's get it out the way at the start: the Airbus A380 is big. Really, really big. Its 80m wing span is 54 per cent longer than the 747, and the 24m-high tail is so tall that when they received their shiny new plane British Airways had to extend the roof of their already sizeable Heathrow hangar in order to fit the aircraft inside.
With two seating decks running the entirety of its 72m length, creating a potential capacity of 853 people, the A380 is the largest passenger aircraft in the skies.
While a number of airlines have been flying the A380 for several years, BA is about to become the first British carrier bring the "superjumbo" into full operation, on its so-called "red carpet" route from London to Los Angeles.
Their version - which is configured to carry a more manageable 469 souls - takes its inaugural flight from Heathrow to LAX on September 24. Prior to this the airline have been running it in on a short 90-minute route to Frankfurt to give cabin crew and pilots the chance to adjust to the demands of their new behemoth. The Telegraph joined them on one such flight to sample the passenger experience in each class of travel, and unearth the seats with the most legroom.
World Traveller (economy)
BA has designed their A380 to feel like you're flying inside a much smaller plane by subdividing each deck into multiple cabins. A happy by-product of this is an increased number of "front" seats with greater leg room. Look for rows 20, 35, 70 and 80. By far the most space, however, can be found in seat 25D which is positioned over an unused service hatch and gives you enough room to stretch out fully. This coveted seat can be booked in advance for an extra £50.
If storage space is your priority then ask for a window seat on the upper deck – all of these come with side-lockers as well as the overhead stowage, giving you plenty of space for magazines, books, and an extra sandwich or two.
World Traveller Plus (premium economy)
You won't be needing any spare sandwiches in BA's version of premium economy. It costs an extra £400 compared to standard economy, but for that you get a bigger seat with significantly more leg room, pre-flight drinks and food service from the business class menu. A World Traveller Plus ticket also gives you the best chance of an upgrade to Business Class, since BA operate a single-class upgrade policy.
Club World (Business)
The second-largest class on the plane boasts greater seating space than on BA's next largest aircraft, and BA has attempted to create greater levels of privacy with a triumvirate seat configuration on the upper deck. If you find yourself in the middle seat, though, these privacy efforts are somewhat countered by the need to lunge over your fellow passengers to reach the aisle. There is one seat on the plane which eliminates this problem: seat 53E. Facing the rear wall, this seat offers a clear exit route, and is thus the most favoured seat in Business.
A “red carpet” route from London to LA is bound to attract its fair share of celebrities and film stars. On the A380, they (or anyone else lucky enough to fly First) will be able to stretch out in 14 suites which are 30 per cent more spacious than on other BA aircraft, and feature 15” multimedia entertainment screens, an a la carte menu and fold down beds with a turn-down service. They won't, however, be able to enjoy a stand-up shower, a drink at the bar or wander round an art gallery, like the first-class customers of Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, or numerous other airlines. British Airways believe its customers value “understated elegance” over unnecessary “bling”, and say it doesn't want passengers on other aircraft to feel like “poor relations”. This means that a flight on the BA A380 feels very much like a flight on board any other BA aircraft – albeit quieter and more spacious.
BA will take delivery of 11 more A380s before 2016, and has already announced routes from London to Hong Kong and Johannesburg. This means there will be plenty of opportunity to experience the new aircraft. However, BA are banking on the fact that once you're inside you'll barely notice.
Oh, and the most coveted seat in First? Of course, it's 1A.
World Traveller (economy) – seats from £621 return; World Traveller Plus (premium economy) – seats from £1001 return; Club World (Business) – seats from £2,550 return; First Class – seats from £3,799 return. See ba.com .
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