Wednesday, 20 November 2019

My Blog Post And Trip Report On Airbus A380

Welcome to my blog post on the Airbus A380!


These are my photos of the A380 in Singapore Airlines' livery



For the SIN-LHR sector of my A380 adventure, click here.

Introduction

This is my 2nd part of my 2009 London Trip. I thought I should do a write-up on this as the return flight was eventful. In addition, I like to write a blog post on the Airbus A380 and the future, to let everyone know what's the current situation with this aircraft. So without further ado, let's begin! 

About the Airbus A380-800 


Photo: Steward Andrew

The idea of the double-decker plane began in 1988 for Airbus, to compete with Boeing's 747 series as back then Boeing was dominating in the wide-body segment and Airbus wants to have a share of it. Doing extensive studies in the 1990s, in 1994, the A3XX idea was formally presented to the public, but the aircraft was officially launched 6 years later. The launch took place when the manufacturer gained enough interest from airlines to do so. There were hiccups along the way and finally in 2005, the first A380 prototype was born. This aircraft, along with a few others, were tested extensively and eventually gained EASA and FAA type certification. Singapore Airlines is the launch customer of this aircraft and it took delivery of the first A380 in 2007, 9V-SKA. The airline's first 5 A380 were slightly overweight that means that it is not as efficient as the newer batch of A380 aircraft. For now, 9V-SKA to SKE is no longer in Singapore Airlines' fleet as they have been replaced by a newer batch of A380, 9V-SKU to 9V-SKZ. 


Photo by Flightglobal

There were rumours of a larger A380, the -900 series and A380NEO but that was dismissed by the aircraft manufacturer as there was not enough interest to launch the type. Initially, the manufacturer offered the freighter version and FedEx was a launch customer, but the plan was cancelled as it was not economical for the operator. 

9V-SKA in its golden days, photographed by Yochai Mossi. 

This is the first A380 to start the world's first A380 commercial flight, Singapore to Sydney.



Along with Singapore Airlines, ANA, Korean Air, Emirates (The largest operator of this aircraft type), British Airways, Asiana, Lufthansa, Qantas, Air France, Hi-Fly, Qatar, Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways are operators of this giant plane. Sadly, there are plans from some airlines to retire this aircraft as they do not find it economical to operate it. Air France and Qatar have set dates to retire the aircraft type completely while Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways are still operating them even though they wanted to get rid of the aircraft type for quite some time. There is no date of retirement for both airlines at the moment. For the biggest operator of the A380, Emirates, they have announced that they will operate the A380 into the 2030s. 

Due to a lack of order for the A380 after ANA’s putting pen to paper to purchase 3 aircraft dedicated on Tokyo Narita to Honolulu route, Airbus has reluctantly announced the end of production of the A380 in 2021. However, the manufacturer will continue to offer support to current operators.

This was one of the 2 A380 aircraft spotted at Tokyo Narita Airport


On the bright side, ANA has taken delivery of the first 2 out of 3 A380 aircraft ordered. The airline will take delivery of the 3rd aircraft in early 2020. The other airline to take delivery of the remaining order in production is Emirates. This airline will operate a whopping 119 airframes in total once the order is completed. 

This is Hi-Fly's Airbus A380 (Former Singapore Airlines' A380, 9V-SKC) Photographed by Marco Papa - North East Spotter


Hi-Fly is the only chartered airline to operate the A380, so from time to time, you will see the aircraft deployed on some airlines’ routes as the airlines have issues with their aircraft and in need of capacity to ensure their operation is working as smoothly as possible. 

One of the 2 A380s being scrapped. (Photo: Daily Telegraph Australia)


There are 2 A380 aircraft scrapped and that is 9V-SKA and -SKB. The scrapped parts would become spare parts for the remaining A380s.  The owner, Dr Peters, a German investment group, decided to end the lives of those 2 airframes as it couldn't find operators to lease the aircraft to. The worrying thing about the future of the A380 is what happens to some of the A380s when the lease with the airlines end, that would be a headache for the leasing companies as they would have a hard time finding other airlines to lease the aircraft to. Most likely they would be scrapped, and their age is considered too young to have their wings crippled. 

To airlines and airport staff, the A380 can be a logistic and maintenance nightmare, but for passengers in general, they love the aircraft for it’s a quiet and spacious cabin. Even though it is equipped with 4-engines, the cabin noise is quieter than most wide-bodies out there. The advantage of this aircraft is the ability to carry lots of passengers from point A to B especially at airports that are strict with frequencies (the number of flights allowed for the airline to operate per day). One example of this airport is London Heathrow, this aircraft works very well with British Airways. As this airport has time-slot restriction, it makes sense to carry a big capacity aircraft on popular routes. 

According to the operators, they have been experiencing regular issues with the A380, mainly on the technical issues, giving the pilots and maintenance workers a headache. The logistic issue is also a problem as cancelled flights, especially at foreign airports mean the airline has to come out with contingency plans for the stranded passengers and crew either by providing accommodation or transferring passengers to other airlines and that is not an easy feat for the operation centre and airport staff. Not just that, the C and D-checks of the aircraft are expensive and cabin products are often improving from time to time, so to retrofit the whole aircraft with newer products is very uneconomical. This is one of the reasons why airlines are looking to retire the aircraft and they usually do so when that aircraft is reaching the closer to the date due for heavy maintenance check-up.

My thoughts

As much I like the A380, I prefer flying on the smaller size wide-body aircraft for various reasons. Faster boarding and disembarking time, shorter immigration queue, shorter queue to wait to use the toilet on board the aircraft and probably a few more reasons but this is all I can think of

Whatever it is, I am glad this aircraft exists. All of us can learn the pros and cons of the existence of the VLA (Very Large Aircraft). Major airlines these days are focusing on high frequencies (as many flights to that airport if possible) on high demand routes and that makes sense by operating smaller aircraft such as the A330, A350, B787 Dreamliner and B777-300ER. 

What's unique about Emirates and Etihad's A380?

Emirates and Etihad Airways are the only airlines with shower on the A380's First Class, the other airlines opted not to install this feature as it is not economical according to the bean counters of those airlines. 

I am fortunate to get a tour visit to this giant aircraft after my flight. Here are some of the photos

The cockpit of the Airbus A380


Business Class Lounge 


First Class Bar 


The Shower facility at First Class 


For more photos of Emirates' premium classes on the A380, click here

Specification of the A380

Capacity: Up to 853 seats (Depends on configuration), so far no airline has a single class configuration on the A380. 
Engines: 4 X Roll Royce Trent 900 or 4 X GP7200 
Range: 14,800 km 
Cruise Speed: Mach 0.85
MTOW: 575t

General configuration of the A380 


Current status of the A380 operators (November 2019)

Thai Airways is currently operating 6 A380, HS-TUA to HS-TUF. 

Currently operating flights from Bangkok to Frankfurt, London, Osaka, Paris and Tokyo. 


Singapore Airlines is the launch customer of the Airbus A380 and currently operates a total of 19 of this type. The registration of the aircraft fleet is 9V-SKF to 9V-SKN, 9V-SKP to 9V-SKW, 9V-SKY and 9V-SKZ. (9V-SKO and 9V-SKX are skipped). The airline is currently flying the A380 from Singapore to Zurich, Frankfurt, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Delhi, Beijing, Sydney, Shanghai, Melbourne, Mumbai, Nagoya, London and Paris.


Qantas operates a fleet of 12 Airbus A380. The airline originally has 20 on order but decided to cancel the remaining due to economical reasons. The registration of the 12 A380s is VH-OQA to VH-OQL. The airline operates this aircraft on the following routes: Melbourne-Singapore-London, Melbourne-Los Angeles, Sydney-Dallas, Sydney-Singapore and Sydney-Los Angeles 


Emirates is the largest operator of the A380 with a current fleet of 113, 6 more to be delivered. It also operates both Roll Royce and GP7200 powered A380. The registration of the aircraft is A6-EDA to EDZ, A6-EEA to EEZ, A6-EOA to EOZ, A6-EUA to EUZ, A6-EVA to EVJ (for now). For the routes, you can click here for more information. 


Korean Air operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A380. The registration of the aircraft is HL7611 to 7615, 7619, 7621, 7622, 7627 and 7628. Current routes for these aircraft (From Seoul Incheon) are London, New York, Paris and Los Angeles.


Asiana Airlines operates a fleet of 6 A380s. The registration of the aircraft is HL7625, 7626, 7634, 7635, 7640 and 7641. Currently, the airline is deploying them (Seoul Incheon) to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo Narita and Taipei Taoyuan. 


Photos below are from other photographers

ANA's Airbus A380, photographed by Tokyo spotter. 

This airline will operate 3 A380-800 and will be deployed only on Tokyo Narita to Honolulu route. This is of course, subject to changes. The aircraft in service are JA381A and JA382A. JA383A is due to join the fleet in early 2020.


Air France's Airbus A380, photographed by Jonathan Rankin

This airline operates a fleet of 10 A380 and it has plans to retire them by 2024. The registration of the aircraft is from F-HPJA to F-HPJJ. Currently, the airline is flying them (Paris CDG) to Atlanta, Mexico, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington. 


Etihad Airways' Airbus A380, photographed by Juan C. Aponte

This airline operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A380 and they are registered from A6-APA to APJ. Unlike its rival, Emirates, they operate a smaller fleet of A380. The airline is currently deploying them (Abu Dhabi) to London, New York JFK, Paris, Seoul and Sydney.


British Airways Airbus A380, photographed by Tim Lowe

This airline operates a fleet of 12 Airbus A380, the CEO mentioned that the airline may consider purchasing more if the price is right as the aircraft fits the airline's network perfectly. The registration of the aircraft is G-XLEA to G-XLEL. The current destinations for this aircraft (London Heathrow) are Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Singapore and Vancouver. 


Lufthansa Airbus A380, photographed by Szabo Gabo

This airline operates a fleet of 14 Airbus A380 and the registration of the aircraft is D-AIMA to D-AIMN. This airline will be reducing the number to 8 with 6 of them being sold to Airbus and they will leave the fleet in 2022 and 2023. The current destinations of the A380 (Frankfurt) are Delhi, Houston, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.


China Southern Airlines Airbus A380, photographed by Hou Yijing

This airline operates a fleet of 5 Airbus A380. The registration of the aircraft is B-6136 to B-6140. It currently flies the A380 from Beijing to Amsterdam, Hanoi, Hong Kong and Istanbul and Guangzhou to Beijing Capital, Beijing Daxing and Los Angeles Airports.


Qatar Airbus A380, photographed by Simone Previdi (Malpensa Spotters Group)

This airline operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A380 and they will be retired in 2022. The registration of the aircraft is A7-APA to APJ. The current destinations of this aircraft (Doha) are Frankfurt, Guangzhou, London, Melbourne, Paris, Perth and Sydney.


Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380, photographed by Xiangyu Chen

This airline operates a fleet of 6 Airbus A380, registered 9M-MNA to 9M-MNF. They have a different livery from the other aircraft types. This airline has been trying to sell them off for quite a while but unfortunately for them, no luck so far. 

The airline is currently operating the A380 (Kuala Lumper) to Hong Kong, Medinah to Tokyo. 


Hi-Fly's Airbus A380, photographed by Siegi N

This chartered airline from Malta operates this single A380 and is used for high demand routes required by airlines. Usually, the airline will seek help from these companies and if the leasing company has the right aircraft available, it will be leased to the airline on short-term either usually by wet-leased. 

There are 2 types of aircraft leases, Wet and Dry lease. A wet lease is when the airline renting out the aircraft, provides both flight and cabin crew. While for dry lease, the airline renting the aircraft uses it's own flight and cabin crew. (Cheaper in rent and also makes sense if the airline has experience in the aircraft type.)


My Trip Report (From what I can remember)

This trip took place at London Heathrow Airport in 2005. At that time, flightradar24 app didn't exist so tracking of your aircraft, there are two ways of coming about with it, that is either ask the counter staff (you may get a weird reaction) or go to the gate and hope that the aircraft is parked in front of you where you can check the landing gear for the registration number. 

The flight was an evening timing, 2205 hrs departure, so my mum and I had a long day to do some last-minute shopping or activities. By the time we reached the airport, we were exhausted. Check-in process was normal and after some time of queueing for immigration, we took a quick bite before heading to our gate. 

Our plane, 9V-SKJ (SQ’s A380) was parked at the gate. Departure time came and go, there were staff at the counter waiting for clearance for us to board the aircraft. They had no idea of the delay until one of them received a phone call. Not long after, voices of disappointment could be heard, our flight was to be delayed for 3 hours. After that, it was further delayed until the late morning of the following day, that means we were to be put into a hotel but without our luggage.  That was a problem because most of our winter wear clothing was in our luggage but we were told, our journey to the hotel was not long so no issue there. 

As you know, the capacity of SQ’s A380 is around 450 and it was a full flight, the workload of the ground staff must have been heavy. It took a while for my mum and I to receive information about our hotel and soon, we boarded the bus that was bound for this hotel. What’s the hotel? I can't remember. It was a 15 minutes ride from Heathrow to the hotel, accompanied by the airline staff. The airline staff accompanied us to the hotel and from the hotel, another representative accompanied us back to the airside for our departure. 

The customer service was top-notch, there is nothing else they could do. Later on, I found out that the aircraft had a technical issue and one of the parts (an important component of the wings) had an issue, I suspect it has something to do with the flaps. I didn't probe further. They had to wait for the spare part to come in, so that's why the delay was long and not to mention the time needed to do some tests to ensure that it is fit for flying. 

We had a good rest at the hotel, and soon we were back at the airport around 8 in the morning for our 11 a.m flight. We were given a special line at the immigration, avoiding a long queue to get our passport stamped and after that, we had a bit of spare time to hang around. This time our flight number was changed to SQ321D. The D stands for ’Delay’. 

You can check out the old A380 products on this trip report, click here.

This is the newer cabin products on the A380

New First Class Suites can be converted into double bed (Photo by Luis Calvo Fly-News)


(Both photos below are photographed by Andrew Hunt)

New business class product


New Economy Class product


When I flew the A380, the aircraft was configured in 3 classes (minus the Premium Economy). Premium Economy class for Singapore Airlines was introduced on 9th August 2015.

Premium Economy Class (Photo by Vivek Manvi - Vivek Photography)


At that time, the newest aircraft is 9V-SKK. That aircraft is the last batch of the 1st configuration of the A380. Currently, there are 3 configurations. (Please correct me if I am wrong, thanks!)

First batch (Version 1)- F- 12 C- 60 W- 36 Y- 333 (9V-SKF to 9V-SKK) Total: 441

Second batch (Version 2) - F- 12 C- 86 W- 36 Y- 245 (9V-SKL to SKR and SKT) Total: 379

Third batch (Version 3)- F- 6 C- 78 W- 44 Y- 343 (9V-SKS, 9V-SKU to SKZ) Total: 471

*Do note that 9V-SKA to SKE aircraft have retired from the fleet.

(F - First Class, C - Business Class, W -Premium Economy, Y- Economy) 

The first batch of Airbus A380 will be re-configured to the same number of seats as the 3rd batch, with new products and it will be known as version 4 according to the airline. Both version 3 and 4 offer the newest products. 

For more information, click here.

I selected a window and middle seat for both of us just behind the emergency door on the upper deck near the rear. The usual wonderful SQ service began after the doors were closed. After take-off, everything went on normal until the emergency door made this sudden buzzing noise. That startled a group of us around that area, even the cabin crew wasn't sure what was that noise but she assured us that everything was ok. At that point, I was wondering whether do we need to divert. We were flying across Turkey at that point. 

Later on, one of the pilots came and checked but there was nothing to worry about, according to him. It was a common problem with the A380 doors and the aircraft was safe to continue. My mum and I were not happy as the noise went on until landing. I am sure others have something to say about it but thinking back now, the 14-hours delay and the noisy door experience is just one of those days when things can go wrong, part and parcel of flying. The airline is not to be blamed for any of the incidents, and the crew and ground staff dd a commendable job.

After the flight, the crew (you can see from their faces) were relieved. They tried their best to make us comfortable during the annoying experience. They did apologise to us and I think for that, this set of crew deserves credit.

So if you folks encounter a long delay, don't jump at the staff. There is a reason for it, let the staff do their jobs and if you find out the recovery service is terrible, it's best to contact the airline directly, rather than raging at them publicly. For the rude staff, just like the naughty kids, report to their ”parents” (boss) instead.

Flight details

Airline: Singapore Airlines
Flight: SQ321
Route: LHR-SIN
Date: December 2009
Aircraft type: LHR-SIN
Registration: 9V-SKJ
Flight Delayed for about 14 hours

Rating:

London Heathrow Airport Experience: 7/10
Airport Hotel: 7/10 (Comfortable bed - that's the most important thing)
Service recovery from the airline: 8/10
In-flight experience: 3/10 
In-flight service: 8/10
In-flight meals: 6/10
In-flight entertainment system: 7/10
Overall rating: 46/70

Conclusion

Despite the recent disappointing news of the Airbus A380, the aircraft will continue to fly in our skies for another decade or so. Comparing this to the Boeing 747, the former has been more successful as from the 1970s to 2000s, 4-engine wide-body aircraft is popular among the major airlines. Although there are periods of recession, the 747 managed to get past through until today which the twin-jets are dominating in today's aviation world. I will not hesitate to hop onto another A380, it is indeed a very good plane to fly on. The quiet and spacious cabin wide-body is very popular among the passengers. When I sat on the upper deck with Thai Airways, I could even hear a pin drop during take-off. 

While some of us may not appreciate its design, let's appreciate it for the novelty the aircraft has brought to the aviation industry. Enjoy the sight of them while they are still around. 

Apart from Air France and Qatar, there are others making plans to retire the A380, let's hope that won't happen too soon. 

I hope you enjoy this blog post.

Have a fantastic week!

Cheers,
Charles