As some of you may know, I recently spent a few weeks in Greece. I live in the Washington, D.C. area, and because my G650 was out for an oil change, I had to fly commercial. My itinerary was D.C.>Paris>Athens, and the first leg of that trip was aboard an Air France A380. For those of you who do not know, the A380 is the largest commercial passenger jet in the skies today. It seats roughly four thousand people, and is about a mile long and a mile wide (read: ~550 people, 240 feet long, 260 feet wide). It can take off weighing more than a million pounds, and each plane costs something like $500 million dollars.
After a quick check-in and a relatively streamlined boarding process, the Air France flight attendants asked us to stow all of our "loo-gahj" (soft J), we fastened our seatbelts, and away we went!
(Disclaimer: Airbus wanted me to review the A380 so bad, they told their buddies at Air France to sell me a ticket for a transatlantic flight. This was very special and exclusive, and by no means were there 500+ other people on this plane that had the same experience as me. Also, Jennifer Lawrence got off the plane right before I got on. She was in Paris for something, I don't know. Text me, Jen.)
Right, so this plane is huge. It's a true double-decker, having two rows of windows for basically the entire length of the plane. It looks a little...derpy. The nose is oddly bulbous, and due to its fantastic size, it doesn't seem very aerodynamic. The plane is split into two cabins, the upper cabin and the main cabin, and each cabin has its own separate boarding entrance. The main point here is that this plane is very, very big.
This is a nice plane! I sat in the "premium economy" section (the light blue seats on the cabin map, upper deck), because by the time I found out we were on an A380, there were no available upgrades into business class, and upgrading to first class ("La Premiere", the WWII-esque red bomb/torpedo shaped seats at the front of the plane)(honestly, who thought that was a good idea?) cost roughly the same as a nice boat.
At night, the ambient lighting in the cabin is a very nice, deep purple. It was relaxing, and because the cabin is so wide and spacious, it had the feel of sitting in a nice hotel lobby late at night. The seats themselves were also quite spacious. I think that the economy seats on this plane are wider and have more legroom than the economy seats of any other plane. I have sat business class on smaller planes that had a good bit less room than the premium economy seat I sat in here.
Each seat had its own screen and attached phone/controller thingy. I'll get to that stuff later.
It takes about two miles to get this monster of a plane off the ground, but when the A380 is throttled up at takeoff, it gains speed nicely. Please, keep in mind that the plane weighs over a million pounds, so the fact that it even moves forward was impressive to me. The fact that it leaves the ground is borderline magic. How do planes work, anyways?
I have to admit, I have never flown an A380, however, I have flown a Carbon Cub SS, a high-performance single propeller light sport aircraft. That plane was incredibly maneuverable and responsive. I though of the Carbon Cub as the BRZ/FRS/GT86 of the sky. Not fast, but responsive and delightful. In contrast, I have to assume that the A380 is the polar opposite of the Carbon Cub. I assume the A380 handles like a cross between a polar bear swimming through peanut butter and a Tyrannosaurus Rex walking on its arms. In automotive terms, I figure it handles slightly better than a Peterbilt, and slightly worse than a Challenger SRT8 (zing!).
I'm not sure if planes have brakes, but at one point we were going really fast in the air, and then at a later point we were stopped on the ground, so something slowed us down. Whatever it was, it worked.
Very smooth, and very enjoyable. I think that the size of this plane lends to a smooth ride, sort of how a cruise ship rides smoother than a sport boat. It was like sitting on a large building that also happened to be flying sideways through the air. This plane flew smoother than any airliner I have ever been on.
Tremec 6-speed with a heavy duty clutch. Notchy, mechanical, makes a satisfying snick as you row through each gear.
The infotainment system was absolutely excellent. Each seat has its own screen of a very decent size and resolution. This screen had about a thousand menus and screens. The "movies" section had a lot of great movies, new and old. I watched Snowpiercer, which was great, and Grand Budapest Hotel, which was good. You could also access flight information, the menu for food/refreshments, games, a chat program between seats (each little attached seat-back telephone had a fully qwerty keyboard) that was fun to use for about 4 minutes. You could create an open lobby, and name it, and people in the chat program would see that lobby and could join it if they wanted to talk. It was a great way to meet fellow travelers (Chat>Create Lobby>Lobby_Name: MILEHIGHCLUB??).
One of my favorite features were the "cameras". The plane had three exterior mounted cameras: tail, nose, and belly. You could scroll through this and see a live feed of what was going on outside the plane. Really only that interesting for takeoff and landing, but still a very cool feature. Pictured below is the tail camera right before takeoff.
The A380 is a very quiet plane. I don't know if the main deck is any louder than the upper deck, but my trip was far quieter than an average airliner. I honestly didn't need my noise-canceling headphones. Usually, the headphones reduce the dull roar of an airliner cabin into a dull whisper, but having the headphones on in the A380 made the cabin pretty much silent. By the way, those headphones are Bose QC-15s, and they are incredible for travel.
The infotainment system also had some radio stations and stuff, but I didn't really listen to any.
The service was excellent! About 10 minutes after we took off, I asked for a beer, expecting to be told that it was too early in the flight for beer, or that they would gladly bring me a Bud Light for eight dollars if I had a credit card. Instead, this excellent man looked at me and said "How many?". How many! I thought about it for a second, decided to try my luck, and said "four?" Without a moment's pause, the gentlemen went and got me four Heinekens, at once, and put them on my tray. They were free. Note: The beers were Redbull sized. It was weird. Whatever, we were 15 minutes into the flight and I had four cold beers in front of me, 10/10.
I don't own/run an airline, but I imagine that A380s are a good value in the long run, as Airbus has lined up hundreds of orders.
As far as being a passenger, it's a great value! I don't think a ticket is any more expensive on an A380 than another type of aircraft for a given flight, but the experience is definitely more enjoyable for the passenger. There aren't too many in the air yet, but if you get the chance to fly one, do it!