Andy in PJs aboard the A380

The A380 Experience

If the A380 had a head and shoulders, they would be significantly above those of other jets. At 79 feet (24.1 meters) tall and 238 feet (72.57 meters) long, the world’s biggest airliner makes other planes look puny. To reach the upper deck, I had to climb three ramps. On the ground, at least, that size seemed to come at the expense of speed. After leaving the gate at LAX, Qantas flight 12 to Sydney didn’t so much taxi as lumber – a Southwest 737 lapped us on the right.

That lumbering translated to perhaps the smoothest takeoff I’ve ever experienced; I didn’t notice the typical whoosh as we left the ground. Part of that could have been the lack of noise – the A380 was designed for 50% less interior noise than other jets, so the lack of rumble may have made it seem smoother too. The Fasten Seat Belt sign went off mere moments into the sky.

The A380 debuted in 2007 (2008 for Qantas), but it still retains some of the novelty that reminded me of when flying was fun. I was hardly the only one snapping photos on this flight. The jet-setting couple across the aisle from me in business class had matching iPads. The movie screen rose from a console between the business class seats at the touch of a button, and videos included Lonely Planet guides to destinations including my work on Tokyo and LA (good on us!). I also attribute the joviality to Qantas, whose crews I’ve always found to be as sunny as all Australia. Next to the security instructions in the seat pocket: the Qantas Inflight Guide to Wine.

Not long after takeoff for this night flight, the crew came through offering comfy gray pajamas with the Qantas “flying kangaroo” logo. These come in medium-large and large-extra large – I guess Australians are big people – and a little amenity case designed by Marc Newsom.

Other neat design touches:

– A cigar-shaped reading light behind the seat and a little pocket customized to hold water bottles.

– Touch-controls for seat adjustments, including custom programs for sitting straight up, mealtime or lying mostly or all-the-way flat.

– Sleek galleys and contemporary nesting cutlery.

– Tray tables folded out from and back into their hiding places as if fresh with silicone.

It was also really great just to be able to sleep. I’m a turbulence wuss, but perhaps the size of the plane made any turbulence seem less severe. Or maybe it was the quarter of an Ambien.

Mid-way through the flight, it hit me how remarkable it was that everything functioned as it was supposed to, nothing was broken, smelly or caked with grime, and nobody was surly, grumpy or over it. It’s a sad commentary on the curent state of the airline industry that this counts as success. But if it puts the fun being back in flying, I’m all for it.