An Airbus A380 like the one flown to NY today. (More pictures from NY tomorrow!) Credit: Lufthansa
Gloomy skies certainly didn’t stop Lufthansa’s Airbus A380-800 from making a graceful inaugural landing into JFK International Airport this afternoon, and Aviation Week was there at Terminal 1 to celebrate the German operator’s first delivery of this monolithic aircraft on American soil.
The A380 landed in New York just before 2:00 p.m. and received a warm welcome from Lufthansa and Airbus executives, regulatory agencies and New York authorities watching the landing through a live feed in the terminal. The landing commemorates the beginning of daily service from Frankfurt to JFK, the first North American route for a Lufthansa A380. Right now the service to New York will run on Mondays and Fridays only until March 27, when Lufthansa ramps up the tempo to four flights a week. By April 10, the A380 will be making daily trips across the Atlantic.
Lufthansa recently announced that San Francisco will be the next North American city to start operating the A380 with service to Frankfort starting May 10th. The carrier has already been operating the aircraft on routes from Frankfurt to Tokyo, Johannesburg and Beijing since it received its first A380 in May 2010.
Airbus stands by the fact that Lufthansa will see at least four deliveries of the A380 in 2011 as part of an overall plan to obtain 15 aircraft by 2015. Although Lufthansa remains mum on its new A380 routes beyond the New San Francisco service, the operator says it is evaluating about 20 new destinations that will most likely pop up in Asia and North America. The carrier gave me the impression today that we should keep our eyes peeled for some new destinations for the superjumbo in the very near future.
“Everything else is still in discussion, but we will probably have a few new routes very soon,” said Martin Rieken, director of corporate communications for Lufthansa Americas.
Despite the excitement at the terminal today, it is true that some of you readers may be a bit tired of the A380 hype. To be fair, Airbus has been echoing it’s new baby’s attributes for a while: It’s 30 percent quieter than other wide-bodies, it offers a capacity of more than 500 passengers and fuel efficiency of 69 mi/gal per passenger that trumps other comparable aircraft. Oh, and the first-class cabin has eight really comfy pull-out beds that combine with the aircraft-wide humidification system to ensure that passengers are perky, happy and feeling as if they just emerged from a spa. But is the aircraft really the future of intercontinental air travel?
Barry Eccleston, president and CEO of Airbus, reminded the audience of the statistical prowess of the A380 to illustrate this possibility. He mentioned the 43 A380s in service worldwide, 200 on order and 10 million passengers that have flown on the aircraft. “What the airlines are finding is that passengers go out of their way to fly on the A380,” he said to the crowd.
I haven’t had the chance to fly on an A380 yet, but I did have the opportunity to check one out for the first time today during a post-celebration cabin tour (look for video tomorrow after I arrive back to the Beltway). Needless to say, most of us on the tour were in all in awe of the lighted spiral stairwells, cool control panels and full pullout beds in first class. But I’m interested in hearing what you readers think about this aircraft on a level deeper than aesthetics. Do you think the A380 is the prototype for next generation aircraft, or is it just a pretty novelty? Also, do you think that most passengers would pay more for a flight just because it’s an A380?
Please discuss, and be sure to check back for video and more pictures very soon!