A 380: the new whale of the skies

What I find really fascinating is how this new whale of the skies has become so similar to the old ocean liners that crossed the waters beneath in years gone by.  Awe inspiring in their size, and class ridden from front to back.  writes CNN's London correspondent Richard Quest, in his exclusive column for domain-b.

This week saw the latest A380 go into service, the 20th in production.

Richard QuestAir France became the first European airline commercially to fly the plane. It is using the mammoth aircraft on the Paris to New York route.  It joins Singapore, Emirates and Qantas in the exclusive club of airlines who have actually received their A380s, albeit years late. 

Those still waiting to join the merry band heard disappointing news at the show. Airbus bosses admitted that they were still having difficulty producing the planes in volume because of customised changes individual airlines demanded on the early models. As a result, Airbus will be hard pushed to deliver 20 A380s next year.  For a project already billions over budget, it means further cost overruns. 

Having flown on the A380 several times, I think of it more as a whale than a jumbo, and just like the biblical parallel, this whale swallows up people, moves them vast distances and then spits them out at the other side of the world.  If you look at the numbers of passengers the whale is carrying, we also get a great look at the problems of aviation today.

Air Austral made aviation history at the Dubai Air Show when it confirmed its order for two A380s. Never heard of Air Austral? It is a little carrier which flies people to Reunion, that part of France in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Reunion has a growing tourism industry and is keen to increase the number of seats to bring people to the paradise island.

So, Air Austral has become the first airline to order the A380 in single-class configuration. That's a posh way of saying they are going to shoehorn as many economy passengers as they can onto the plane….a wopping 840 passengers will be accommodated for the 10 hour flight from Paris to St. Denis.. Yes you read that right. . 840 passengers.  On Air Austral's planes, there will be none of the first class double beds of Singapore Airlines. None of the showers on Emirates, or the bars on Air France and Qantas. Just a lot of passengers being moved from A to B.