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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
What was it like to fly on the A380?
By Laurence Watts
On board the first commercial A380 flight

A passenger's photos from the first A380 commercial flight

As my taxi pulled up at Changi airport, I knew this was going to be a special day - the day of the first A380 commercial flight was finally here.

The airport had long been adorned with banners and posters declaring Singapore "A380 ready" and anticipating the flight.

With some passengers paying tens of thousands of dollars for their tickets, some extra frills were expected and Singapore Airlines did not disappoint.

At check-in, passengers were given red-carpet treatment, with photographers on hand to provide them with souvenir photos.

Movie premiere

Once past customs and at the gate, the real party began.

The departure gate looked more like a movie premiere, with a buffet for guests and photographers and cameramen as far as the eye could see.

Although a stage was set up for various dignitaries to recount the importance of the occasion, the real star of the show was sitting outside.

Sign at Singapore Changi Airport
The A380 "experience started in Singapore"

The A380 is not a pretty plane, but I dare say people said that about the Boeing 747 when it was introduced back in 1970.

The A380 does not look as sleek as other aircraft, but it's as impressive a sight as you're likely to see.

Two rows of cabin windows stretch all the way along the fuselage in true double-decker style and that aspect of the plane captured the imagination of everyone on the flight.

There was a presentation of US$1.3m - raised through auctioning off the seats on the first flight - to various recipient charities.

Then, after some wise words from Singapore Airlines' chief executive and some other sponsors, it was time to board.

Natural light

So what's it like inside?

The new suites for First Class passengers with their double beds and the Business Class seats have been well publicised.

My view of the A380 was from Economy Class, which is where most people will experience the new aircraft.

There was a huge round of applause and a burst of camera flashes as everyone sought to capture the moment

The seats are bigger and spaced further apart, the in-seat entertainment screens are larger with more features, and the lower deck that I was on felt positively cavernous.

The windows are huge - allowing lots of natural light to stream into the cabin.

I was lucky enough to get a seat by the window overlooking the right wing. The wings of the A380 look bigger than some planes.


Shortly after 0800, the giant plane began to move. After we'd moved back from the stand, it was clear that the entire ground staff of Changi Airport had stopped whatever else they might have been doing to see us off.

They waved. We waved back.

The taxi to the runway was short and it was time for take-off.

Singapore Airlines A380
The large aircraft left the ground "smoothly"

Some premature clapping started as soon as the engines began to power up. We moved forward, gathering speed, further and further down the runway.

There was a part of me that wondered if we were perhaps driving to Sydney rather than flying.

This plane could fly, right? After what seemed an age, we left the ground as smooth as silk.

There was a huge round of applause and a burst of camera flashes as everyone sought to capture the moment.

Stairway to heaven

As soon as the seat-belt signs were switched off, we were free to move around, with most of us heading for the spiral staircase at the back of the plane that links the two economy decks.

Stairs on planes are a wonder. I remember the first time I flew business class on the top deck of a Boeing 747. It felt like heaven.

I don't think anyone will be disappointed with the A380 and as a seasoned traveller, today's flight has put the excitement back into air travel for me

Like when I used to rush to the upper deck of a London bus as a child.

The feeling on board the A380 is just as sweet.

For people like my mother, who feel the need to stretch their legs on long flights, passengers now have a veritable running-track spread over two floors, with the option of throwing in some step aerobics if your legs are still twitchy.

The A380's top deck is a little narrower and as such, there are fewer seats on each row, but as with downstairs, the sheer comfort offered to passengers is a breakthrough.

Flight memorabilia

On this first flight, the stewardesses served champagne in every class, often fighting with the posse of journalists and TV crews to make their way down the aisles, but of course on the A380, the aisles are wider too.

The star chefs who had created the menus for the flight were on hand to sign menus, and we were all given certificates and limited-edition goody bags.

Singapore Airlines A380 landing in Sydney
Passengers on the flight bid on the internet for their tickets

In spite of all the free memorabilia, if there is a single flight safety card or sick bag left on the plane when the last passenger got off, I would be very surprised.

The day has been great.

More than that, though, the A380 now offers passengers more to do and greater comfort than ever before.

The biggest annoyance for most travellers on a flight is having the passenger in front of you recline their seat into your face or lap.

Such is the space on this aircraft that as I looked around the plane, very few people had even bothered.

I don't think anyone will be disappointed with the A380 and as a seasoned traveller, today's flight has put the excitement back into air travel for me.

Laurence Watts is a frequent flyer and a director with ING.

Excited passengers talk about the first flight

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