SF puts the spotlight on the double-decker A380 – The Mercury News


Ten minutes after the start of the flight, the Dom Pérignon sets arrived. It was shortly after we flew over the Golden Gate Bridge aboard the A380 super-jumbo fresh out of the Emirates Airline factory.

This 21st century sky cruise ship made an appearance at San Francisco International Airport on Monday, a prelude to the service of the Dubai-based airline connecting the Bay Area to the Middle East, which begins December 15. . The flights will initially use other planes and then start using A380s in two to three years, depending on demand.

Emirates’ new service is another example of how foreign carriers, sheltered from fierce competition in the United States, are flying high as they hope to tap into the lucrative Northern California market.

The flight marked the first time that the Airbus double-decker, the largest commercial aircraft ever built, took off from San Francisco with passengers – albeit not paying – as part of a marketing campaign by the airline. for profit. While well-known US carriers are on the verge of bankruptcy, Emirates, the private company, posted profits of over $ 1 billion last year.

San Francisco’s 22-door international terminal was designed with the A380 in mind. Two of its doors at opposite ends of the terminal are fitted with three decks for loading and unloading the aircraft, which can carry up to 840 passengers, depending on its configuration.

Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa Airlines also plan to use the gigantic aircraft in service in San Francisco, said Kandace Bender, deputy airport manager. Three more doors can handle the big plane, she said. Currently, there are no plans for A380s to fly to Mineta San Jose International Airport.

A two hour tour

Emirates, which has just taken control of the first of 58 Airbus super-jumbos on order, gave travel agents and media a glimpse of its first plane on a two-hour tour over the Pacific.

Rather, it was a cocktail at 23,000 feet as the lucky few walked down the long aisles, glasses of champagne in hand. They inspected the plane’s 14 first-class walnut-clad “suites” – from private seats that include a range of amenities, from individual closets to personal mini-bars – between bites of caviar on crackers and wontons. of crispy duck. But the stars of the air show were the two shower “spas” – showers accessible to those with the biggest travel budget.

Although the huge plane is dragging on the ground, in the air, it is something else. Its massive engines – manufactured by General Electric and Pratt & Whitney – are significantly quieter than engines from other commercial jets.

“It’s beautiful to fly. It’s like driving a Ferrari, ”said Abbas Shaben, Emirates chief pilot, A380, with a sigh.

The super-jumbo, while impressive, is not the revolutionary plane the Boeing 747 was almost four decades ago when it first took off, said Alan Bender, professor of economics. airlines at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

“Even though it’s a double-decker plane and looks like a whale, it’s only slightly bigger than what’s already there,” the professor said.

It is not certain that the A380 will become as ubiquitous as the 747 once was, he said. On the one hand, travelers prefer the flexible departure and arrival times that small planes allow airlines to offer.

It is, however, a crowd pleaser.

Work the track

On Monday morning at the San Francisco airport, film crews and passengers from other flights lined up to watch his arrival. The airport greeted the plane with a water curtain – firefighters on both sides of the plane gave it a shower. The plane’s pilot, in turn, showed the craft – giving it the equivalent of a model’s spins and struts by showing its flanks to the crowd.

“It’s fantastic,” said James Doyle, a 22-year-old Irishman waiting for a flight to Las Vegas. “I love it.”

Seattle resident Janet Baad grabbed a front row seat two hours before Emirates flight 7222 arrived. She was on her way to Germany and a friend who works at the airport took it. warned.

“It’s an incredible achievement,” she said. “This is probably my only chance to see him.”

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