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World’s biggest jetliner takes to skies at last

THURSDAY, OCT. 25, 2007

ON BOARD FLIGHT SQ380 – A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 took off on a historic journey today – the first commercial flight by the world’s largest jetliner, which boasts luxurious suites enclosed by sliding doors, double beds, a bar and the quietest interior of any plane.

With 455 passengers, some of whom paid tens of thousands of dollars for a seat in aviation history, the superjumbo left Singapore for Sydney at 8:16 a.m. on a 7 1/2 -hour flight that launches a new era in air travel. Also on board Flight SQ380 was a crew of about 30 including four pilots.

Among the passengers was Swedish electronics engineer Ralf Danielsson, who took the first Concorde flight in 1979.

“Twenty-eight years later, I thought it would be fun to do something like that again,” said Danielsson, 58.

The double-decker A380 ends the nearly 37-year reign of the U.S.-made Boeing 747 jumbojet as the world’s most spacious passenger plane. The A380 is also the most fuel efficient and quietest passenger jet ever built, from inside and outside, according to its European manufacturer, Airbus SAS.

It was delivered to Singapore Airlines on Oct. 15, nearly two years behind schedule after billions of dollars in cost overruns for Airbus. Still, the wait was worth it, says Singapore Airlines, which got the exclusivity of being the plane’s sole operator for 10 months.

“This is indeed a new milestone in the timeline of aviation,” said Chew Choon Seng, chief executive of Singapore Airlines, or SIA, in a speech before the departure.

Chew, flanked by two flight attendants, greeted passengers with a smile and a nod as they boarded the aircraft, which is as tall as a seven-story building. Each wing is big enough to hold about 70 mid-sized cars.

Although the A380 can hold 853 passengers, Singapore Airlines, recognized as one of the best in the world, opted for 471 seats in three classes – 12 Singapore Airlines Suites, 60 business class and 399 economy class.

Each suite, enclosed by sliding doors, is fitted with a leather upholstered seat, a table, a 23-inch flat screen TV, laptop connections and a range of office software. A separate bed folds up into the wall. Two of the suites can be joined to provide double beds.

On the upper deck, business class seats can turn into wide flat beds, while the economy class seats on both decks will enjoy more leg and knee room, the carrier says. Business class passengers also have a bar area.

SIA auctioned most of the seats on the inaugural flight on eBay, raising $1.26 million for charity. The highest bidder was Briton Julian Hayward, who bought two suite seats for $100,380. He was the first passenger to board.


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