Airbus A380 super jumbo gets a grand welcome in Singapore

The world's first commercially operating Airbus A380, the world's largest and most modern jetliner, arrived on Wednesday, 17 October, in its new home. The Singapore Airlines aircraft will go on its historic first commercial flight next week from Singapore to Sydney and back, a flight that its makers say will redefine luxury in the air.

Freshly painted with the airline's peacock logo on its tail, the double-decker A380 touched down on schedule at Changi Airport, watched by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other dignitaries.

The superjumbo, which is as tall as a seven story building, taxied to its gate under a canopy of water sprayed by two fire trucks positioned on both sides of the tarmac, to the thunderous sound of booming drums.

"This is the most anticipated event of the century in aviation," Singapore Airlines senior executive vice president Bey Soon Khiang. "This week," he declared, "the game changes."

Airbus formally delivered the plane on Monday in Toulouse, France, where the superjumbo was built. It took seven years and about $13 billion to develop, and finally rolled off the assembly line nearly two years behind schedule.

The plane will take off on its first commercial flight from Singapore's Changi airport for Sydney, Australia, on 25 October as flight SQ380. Seats on the inaugural flight, which were sold through an online auction, raised $1.25 million for charity.

The highest bidder was 39-year-old Sydney-based Britisher Julian Hayward, who paid $100,380 for a one-way passage in two 'Singapore Airlines Suites', which the airline describes as 'a class beyond first'. Each suite, enclosed by sliding doors, has a bed, a 23-inch LCD TV, and a table, apart from a metre-wide chair. Two suites even have double beds. To get an idea of the A380's interiors, read Singapore Airlines' new A380: A class beyond first)

However, this does not come cheap. A round-ticket from Singapore to Sydney will cost more than S$10,000 ($6,819), about 25 per cent more than a first class ticket on Singapore Airline flights by other planes to Sydney. The new luxuries are intended to entice the top-end passengers of other airlines. "We want premium passengers of all other airlines to shift," Bey said.

He said Singapore Airlines would replace all 14 of its Boeing 747-400s with Airbus A380s within four years. Bey said he was optimistic that Airbus will be able to deliver the remaining 18 planes that Singapore Airlines has ordered on time.

Singapore Airlines has created a lot of hype around the new plane, which is more fuel-efficient per seat than others and is the most silent among all large passenger jets.