Biggest passenger jet takes off for inaugural service

The Airbus A380, the world’s biggest passenger plane, took off Tuesday from Singapore’s Changi Airport for its inaugural commercial flight to London, the jet’s first European destination.

Flight SQ308, operated by A380 launch customer Singapore Airlines (SIA), departed Changi Airport’s new Terminal Three at 9.19am (1.19am GMT).

The flight, carrying 449 passengers, is scheduled to land at London’s Heathrow Airport about 12 or 13 hours later with the return leg to arrive in Singapore on Wednesday afternoon, SIA said in a statement.

SIA said 17 passengers from nine countries who had flown on the world’s first A380 commercial flight from Singapore to Sydney in October last year were also on board the inaugural flight to London.

Among them were Isabelle Chu from Australia’s western city of Perth.

“I would describe it as an expensive hobby but it is better than buying an LV [Louis Vuitton] bag,” Chu, who runs a travel agency, said before boarding.

Chu paid 2 800 Singapore dollars ($2 028) for the return trip in economy class. She was also on SIA’s first direct flight from Singapore to Los Angeles and inaugural non-stop service to New York in 2004.

Briton Bertuccio Ginomr, who flew first class on the A380 inaugural flight to Sydney last year, was looking forward to the in-flight service afforded high-paying passengers.

“I am looking forward to the suites,” Ginomr, who owns a cosmetic business, said. “This is my second time on the A380 and the suites are awesome.”

SIA has configured the A380 double-decker plane, which can carry up to 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration, to a maximum 471 seats, including 12 exclusive suites which the airline describes as “a class beyond first”.

Each suite comes with a full-length bed behind sliding doors, sheets by French design house Givenchy and flat-screen televisions.

Huang Cheng Eng, SIA executive vice-president for marketing and the regions, said seats on both legs of the inaugural flight to London were bought soon after details were announced in January.

He added that forward bookings for A380 scheduled services were strong.

SIA acquired its first A380 in October last year, becoming the first airline to operate the world’s biggest passenger jet with the launch of commercial services from Singapore to Sydney in the same month.

The airline has committed to buy another 16 A380s with options for six more. – AFP

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