Record-Setting Airbus Jet Makes First Flight To London

Singapore Airlines' A380, the world's biggest airplane, took off Tuesday from Singapore for London on its first commercial flight to Europe.

SINGAPORE (AP) -- A Singapore Airlines A380, the world's biggest airplane, took off Tuesday from Singapore for London on its first commercial flight to Europe.
With 449 passengers on board, flight SQ308 was scheduled to land at Heathrow Airport in the British capital at 3:05 p.m. local time (11:05 a.m. EDT).
The carrier hosted a send-off event for passengers at Singapore's Changi Airport to commemorate the double-decker plane's European commercial debut. Passengers took pictures and helped themselves to breakfast ahead of boarding.
''I booked an extra ticket just for this experience,'' said Christian Ernst, 25, of Germany, who made a special stopover in Singapore on his way from South Korea to Frankfurt. ''I'm very excited to be on the first flight of the A380 to Europe.''
The A380, as tall as a seven-story building, can seat more than 800 passengers in an all-economy class configuration. Singapore Airlines has opted for 471 seats in three classes -- 12 Singapore Airlines suites, 60 business class and 399 economy class seats.
Each luxury suite is equipped with sliding doors, a 23-inch LCD TV, a full bed and a leather seat. Two of the suites can be joined to provide double beds.
Powered by four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines, the A380 ends the nearly 37-year reign of the U.S.-made Boeing 747 jumbo jet as the world's most spacious passenger plane. The 747 jumbo jet generally carries about 400 passengers.
Airbus, the European manufacturer of the A380, says the new plane is the most fuel efficient and quietest passenger jet ever built, from inside and outside.
''I'm really interested in this technology,'' said Ernst, a mechanical engineering student who booked an economy seat on the main deck. ''I've also visited the production line in Hamburg and now I really want to experience the plane flying in the air.''
Singapore Airlines took delivery of the jet, the carrier's third, at the Airbus delivery center in Toulouse, France, last Tuesday and will fly it daily between Singapore and London.
Currently the plane's sole operator, the carrier has deployed its two other A380s on daily services between Singapore and Sydney. It has firm orders for a further 16 such planes.
Singapore Airlines will also start flying another A380 jet, its fourth and yet to be delivered, on its Singapore-Tokyo route from May 20.
The first A380 was delivered to Singapore Airlines on Oct. 15, 2007, 18 months behind schedule because of wiring problems and after billions of dollars in cost overruns for Airbus.
Dubai-based Emirates will become the second airline with the plane when it takes its first delivery in August.
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