Airbus A380 makes an impressive debut at JFK International

New York: Struggling European aerospace giant Airbus took out 200 people from diverse fields, airlines as well as the media, for a 90-minute flight from New York's JFK International airport on its newly arrived A380. To all appearances the guests have come back impressed with the aircraft, which Airbus COO John Leahy described as a "game-changing airplane".

The giant A380 has a wingspan of 262 feet, a length of 240 feet and can seat about 555 passengers in three classes. It also offers about 50 per cent more floor area than Boeing's 747-400.

The A380, that has hopped across the Atlantic for the demonstration flight, also displays various seating and lighting configurations. There are 319 seats on the 163-foot-long lower deck, seating 307 in the economy class and 12 in the first-class in the front of the cabin. The upper deck, which is 157-foot long, will seat 200, with 64 in business class and 136 in economy. There are 15 galleys and 15 lavatories, including one with a window over the commode.

With a cabin wider than that of the 747, the seats in economy will also be about an inch wider than those on the Boeing aircraft, according to Airbus. While the 747-400 can seat about 415 passengers in three classes, the A380s are designed to seat 549. Even though it carries more passengers, the A380 can be loaded and unloaded faster than the 747, as Airlines can embark upper deck passengers on one bridge and lower deck passengers on another.

The A380 is also quieter than other jets with about half the cabin noise of a 747, according to Airbus.

From the USA the A380 takes off for Frankfurt, Germany and thence to Hong Kong before returning briefly to the United States on Sunday, landing at Washington Dulles International Airport. The final stop on its schedule will be Lufthansa's hub in Munich on March 28.

Airbus has 156 orders from 14 customers, though US airlines have given it a skip. The launch customer is slated to be Singapore Airlines, which takes delivery of its first super-jumbo in October this year.