Until now, the airlines which have purchased the giant A380 have been coy about telling travellers what they're likely to find on board. The mainstream media has swallowed stories of how passengers will while away their time in gyms and having a flutter at the in-flight casino. But in reality as regular travellers know from experience, these ideas are pipe dreams. No airline can afford to waste space (the most precious commodity on any plane) on frivolities and any extra room is going to be reserved for premium fare customers.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) made this point clear to Business Traveller at a briefing last year in Toulouse (where the A380 is being constructed). SIA said its A380s will feature very different first and business classes to what is offered today. "But what we offer," said a spokesperson, "must be economically viable and so passengers will not find amenities like showers and bowling alleys." SIA says it will fit 480 passengers onto the A380 (configured for first, business and economy class) whose theoretical capacity is 555 seats. The A380 is expected to ply the Heathrow-Singapore-Sydney route from next December.
Now it's the turn of Dubai-based Emirates to release more seating details for its fleet of A380s which it has ordered. Again, it looks as though Emirates is preferring to maximise passenger numbers rather than fit on-board frills.Emirates says its A380s will enter service in April next year. It will eventually see service on routes from Dubai to the UK, Asia Pacific and US. But unlike SIA, Emirates intends to operate three versions of the A380, each tailored to different markets.
There will be a low density 489-seater three class A380 version used on long range services. This A380 has a similar capacity to SIA's version above. Emirates will also offer a long range three class version but this will have a denser layout as the intention is to fit 517 seats.
But where Emirates differs dramatically is its intention to operate a two-class high density 644-seater version for shorter flights. This latter A380 type is expected to appear on routes from Dubai to the Indian Subcontinent and SE Asia which handle voluminous contract labour traffic.
In other news, Emirates has announced a second destination in Japan. It already operates a daily flight to Osaka using an A340-500 and from June 1 it will begin a four times a week service to the industrial city of Nagoya. Flights will be operated by a B777-200. The service will step up to a daily frequency from July 1.
For more information go to emirates.com
Report by Alex McWhirter