Lufthansa’s A380 is Texas Sized
Leah Walker August 6, 2012

The adage, “Everything is bigger in Texas” holds true with the arrival of Lufthansa’s flagship plane to Houston. Thanks to a tip by Paul Thompson, aka Flying Photog, I was able to see Lufthansa’s A380,  the world’s largest passenger jet, first-hand as she made her inaugural flight from Frankfurt to Bush Intercontinental Airport.

German Takeoff

Walking up to the media table was new to me. There I was with reporters I recognized from TV and countless cameramen pushing their heavy equipment with carts. I’m not sure if having this Website qualifies me as “media” but I decided I’d just fake it until I make it. I received my credentials and was escorted with a group of others through security to Terminal D.

I was one of the first people to arrive at noon. A stage was set with a podium, microphones, balloons, and various signage announcing the arrival of the A380. I wandered around and took a few photos before stumbling upon the food table. Fruit, cheeses, pretzel bites, Polish {yes, Polish!?!} sausage, and Ruben sandwiches were laid out for all to enjoy. I grabbed a water, some food, and found a place to sit. I had about an hour and a half to kill before the behemoth jet arrived.

Lufthansa 6

As additional press, invited guests, airport employees, and curious passengers started to arrive, the German band began playing. Dressed in in stereo-typical attire, they played standard German music. With each song, the terminal became more crowded. I milled around and struck up conversations with various people like a county judge, city council members, and executives for Airbus and Lufthansa. I even chatted with Airbus Executive Vice President-Customers, Robert Lekites, about the A380’s ventilation system. Bob said that the A380 reduces jet lag by making it feel like you’re flying at a lower altitude. Go figure, right?

Lufthansa 5

I was tracking flight 440 using an iPhone app, so I knew approximately when it would arrive. I jockeyed for a prime spot in front of the window that opened up to the runway. When the announcement that the A380 was making its final decent, I was ready. The crew working on the tarmac had the same idea as me. Even though they’ve seen a million planes, they stood by with curiosity. When the giant, glistening jet came into sight, the crowd oohed and ahhhed. Despite its enormity, the A380 gracefully floated closer to the earth before the wheels finally touched the runway. Everyone cheered as the band played.

Lufthansa 4

As the A380 taxied to the specially-made gate at the end of the terminal, a water cannon salute christened the jet. When it disappeared from my site, I found myself on press row; the ceremony was about to begin. Speeches by the who’s-who of Houston politics and the airport system, Lufthansa, and Airbus all took turns praising the virtues of the city, airline, and the A380. I learned a lot, but I just wanted to see the jet. After all, I would be flying this exact plane to Frankfurt in November on my way to Prague.

Lufthansa 2

Lufthansa 1

After the ceremonial ribbon and cake cutting, an exchange of gifts, and some Q & A by the “real” media, all the VIPs got to tour the plane first. I waited patiently since TSA (or FAA) regulations only allow fifteen people on at a time. Taking note of the rest of the press corp, I shoved my way into the second group to load the plane. Security and Lufthsansa representatives escorted us down the long hallway until we reached the door of the A380.

EconomyCabin

The entire lower deck is filled with 420 economy seats. With a 3-4-3 configuration, the seats seemed to go on forever. One after another, the identical seats were pristine and begging to be sat in. The spiral staircase in the back of the economy section beckoned me. Leading to the upper deck, the stairway to heaven takes passengers to the 98 business class seats and eight first class seats. This is where I’ll be spending my eleven hours to Frankfurt come November.

Bus. Cabin

Bus. Seat

First class, you ask? Well, at a price as high as $17,000, I think not, but I wouldn’t turn down an upgrade for a sponsored post. {wink-wink, Bob Lekites} No, I imagine I’ll be “slumming” it in business. Even though they don’t lie flat like the ones in first, a business class seat will still give me a chance to sleep with a 168 degree recline.

IF I get UPGRADED to first class, this is what I can look forward to:

1st Cabin

  • An air humidification system, a quiet ride created by sound-proof curtains, and sound-insulated flooring
  • My very own private wardrobe
  • A Paradies mattress, Perkal sheets by Fleuresse, a state-of-the-art blanket, a giant pillow, turn-down service {yes, really!}, and privacy screens
  • Two enormous bathrooms that even have a leather banquette seating for changing {I imagine a lot of mischief will go on in here}

Bathroom

  • Pajamas, an amenity kit, slippers, and a bar of gold {well, I added that last part}
  • Menus prepared by Michelin Star Chefs from around the world, fine China, caviar, and lattes

1st Bed

Here are some things that I found interesting about Lufthansa’s A380:

Mountain

  • The A380 is about 30% quieter than comparable widebody aircraft.
  • Currently, Lufthansa operates the A380 to Houston, Beijing, San Francisco, Tokyo, Singapore, and to New York’s JFK International Airport. Service to Miami will be resumed in October 2012.
  • The main deck on the A380 is 163 feet long and the upper deck is 157 feet long. Each is substantially longer than the distance covered by the Wright brothers in their first flight – 120 feet.
  • The volume of the three decks {including cargo and baggage hold} is 5,150 cubic feet. That’s the equivalent of 35 million ping-pong balls.
  • Removing all seats from the two passenger decks would provide enough space to accommodate nearly 10 squash courts, each measuring 184 square feet.
  • The fuel capacity of the A380 is the equivalent of 21 road tankers.
  • During takeoff, the wing of the A380 will flex upward as much as 13 feet. The take-off weight is 569 tons – the equivalent of 69 bull elephants. It would need five adult giraffes to match the A380’s height of 79 feet.
  • Wing area of the A380 is 9,100 square feet, or 54 percent more than the 747-400. This allows the A380 to land 22 miles per hour slower than the 747-400.

A380_Cockpit_9939

Technical data of the Airbus A380 {or mumbo jumbo I don’t understand}:

TakeOff

  • Length: 239 feet, 6 inches
  • Wingspan 261 feet, 8 inches
  • Height: 79 feet, 1 inch
  • Passengers: 526 in a 3-class configuration (8/98/420)
  • Range: 8,000 nautical miles
  • Fuel consumption: 78 miles per gallon per passenger
  • Fuel capacity: 81,890 gallons
  • Cruising speed: approx. 560 mph (Mach 0.85)
  • Maximum take-off weight: 569 tons
  • Engine thrust: 4 x 70,000 lbs

Lufthansa 3

I shuffled my way through the plane with the rest of the press until it was time to leave. Overall, I’m impressed with not only the event, but the plane. I’m actually looking forward to my winter European trip even more {if that’s possible}. I imagine after an Ambien, some wine, and the ability to stretch out on my flight, I’ll be ready to attack Prague the moment I arrive.

And if the folks at Lufthansa are reading this, I’d be happy to try out your first-class cabin and report back to my readers. Or I’d be happy to have you as the official airline of my Go with Oh European tour!

CALL ME!

FYI:  All the stats and really great pictures are courtesy of the Lufthansa media kit.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

30 Comments

  1. As a bit of an airplane geek it’s awesome you got to do this. Nothing I love more than sitting at the end of a runway as they come in for landing, although it’s getting harder to do this. I saw an A380 for the first time in SFO…how that thing gets off the ground boggles my mind…

    1. I didn’t realize you were an airplane and hotel geek, D.J. I haven’t seen one take off, but the landing was pretty astonishing. How can something so big be graceful? It’s like an elephant being a prima ballerina.

  2. I can’t believe you got to do this, awesome! Furthermore I can not believe your going to be flying to Europe in business class! woot. Great post babe, all the aviation geeks will love this one!

    1. I was pretty excited to do this as well, Nik. As for flying business class to Europe, I’m going with miles and got my ticket months ago. It only cost another 50,000 miles than economy. That’s a no-brainer for me.

  3. How cool was this? Who is the coolest blogger in Texas???

    I have to be honest though – that is business class? In 2012? On a branding spanking new plane? What it comes up as First class is what BA has as business class. With lots of space, fab bed and not the idea that you get under someone else’s seat.

    I really don’t get this, to be honest. Ain’t no #AVGeek, but I know my BA Club World. Also know my first every 18 months, but don’t remember it so well! Seriously, I mean it. The only thing is the bigger bathroom – I think these really need an improvement.

    1. I’d imagine that they don’t sell a whole lot of first class, hence the large number of business class seats. Flying home from Paris I’ll be in United’s new international business class. I’ll be facing backwards and the chair lies completely flat. I suppose it’s just a difference in airlines and what they think will sell. Nothing beats Singapore Air’s first class. {Sigh} One day….

    1. It’s lovely, isn’t it Pola? I didn’t even feel the need to douse my hands with sanitizer when I left. It was so sparkly and clean!

  4. Wow! Sounds like a wonderful experience. I have to agree with the earlier post that the business section doesn’t sound like an improvement. But the plane is HUGE and it’s exciting to see all the media clamoring to see it. Can’t wait to read the review of your flight.

    1. I can’t wait to fly it either, Sue. I think the largest plane I’ve been on is Continental’s 777. I’ve certainly never flown one with an upper deck. The media went nuts. I was just happy to be there and for the experience.

    1. You and me both, Annette. I’d be stretched out not wanting the flight to end. Did I mention the special whiskey tasting?

  5. Awesome tour!! Can’t wait to try this plane soon – I remember my first 747 ride in 1991. It was over the Andes and I couldn’t believe the belly of the monster wasn’t scraping the top of the mountains! Enjoy the trip!

  6. I definitely want to ride on that plan…but not in coach class. There are way too many people in coach to allow for a peaceful trip. I will have to get creative with my mileage and fly one of these.

    1. I agree, Jeff. Four hundred and twenty passengers in coach is a ton. I really have a hard time wrapping my mind around 98 in business. I bought my ticket with miles. It cost 50,000 more to fly business than coach. Normally I wouldn’t spring for the upgrade (50,000 miles would get me to Vegas), but this is a special occasion. I hope you do get to experience the A380 in business (or 1st!).

      1. It is worth it if you can use mileage to ride in first or business. I did this on my last two trips to Spain and it made such a difference. It makes it hard to ride in coach after that but unfortunately I do not have unlimited miles!

        1. Absolutely, Jeff. I’ve been upgraded to business on several trips only to be subjected to coach on the way home. Talk about a let down. 🙂

  7. really, if they’re going to make planes this big, can’t they just make ALL of the seats first class levels of comfort? awesome that you got to take this tour!

    1. Perhaps they should just lie mattresses on the floor for everyone to just stretch out. Leave an aisle so people can go to the bathroom, but that’s it. Is that what you mean, Lazy? 😉

  8. I was supposed to fly the Dreamliner in November to New Zealand, Kristin, but Boeing was behind on their delivery to United. I’m excited to see that thing too! I must plan another trip, I suppose.

  9. Well la-dee-da, Mrs Business Class! Can I name-drop you to get an upgrade on my next flight? 😉

    Seriously the plane does look amazing! I’ve flown on A380s before with Emirates and they’re faaaabulous! Although it looks like Lufthansa need to upgrade their 1st class if they want to compete with Emirates (hello, private cabins!).

    I also have a craving for sausage. Stop giggling.

    1. It’s called “MILES” Tom. I’ve got no special hook up. If I did, my la-dee-da ass would be stretched out on one of those first-class seats drinking lattes and tasting caviar. I’ve not flown Emirates, but do know about the private cabins. Singapore Air has those as well.

      Psst…I have to admit I had a giggle fit. 😉

  10. I look forward to when you change the “if” to “when” in the text around you get upgraded to first class. And please know I will only view videos and read posts of that experience, if you are not first, your last.

    stay adventurous, Craig
    (hope this helps 😉

  11. Wow, that thing is amazing!!!! I’m still flabbergasted when I see jumbo jets take off, it’s so mind boggling that something so large can actually fly.

    1. I haven’t actually seen the A380 take off, but it sure was graceful landing. You’re so right. I’m totally awe struck seeing such a giant thing actually fly.

Your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers

Have the world delivered to your inbox
Well, maybe not the whole world, but some of it. Either way, subscribe to my monthly newsletter. I'll include my latest articles from around the Web, travel announcements, and maybe even a few Paris insider tips.