A380 first class? The best is yet to come, says Airbus chief

By David Flynn , May 31 2016
A380 first class? The best is yet to come, says Airbus chief

Rumours of the death of first class have been greatly exaggerated, says Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy, with competition between airlines shaping a new generation of suites for the A380.

Yes, the superjumbo's launch in 2005 teased some sky-high first class design concepts which were as impressive as they were improbable.

An early A380 first class cabin mock-up
An early A380 first class cabin mock-up

Read: The Airbus A380 first class concept cabins you never saw

But of the 14 airlines now flying the Airbus A380, only a handful have embraced the spirit of those mock-ups with private first class suites, bars and inflight showers.

As an ever-improving business class continues to narrow the gap, has first class reached its zenith?

Not according to Leahy, who says that the A380 provides scope for raising the bar in both of the premium travel classes.

“With the A380 you can have it both ways” Leahy told Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the aircraft manufacturer's annual Airbus Innovations Days media conference in Hamburg.

“You can have the super luxurious first class and you can have a very comfortable business class.”

“I think (Emirates CEO) Tim Clark is a master of that – he has his business class, his luxurious first class, his showers and everything else, then he's got a flying pub down the back (in economy) and it still works beautifully.”

Emirates A380 first class suites are set for a make-over
Emirates A380 first class suites are set for a make-over

It’s not accidental that Leahy namechecks Clark: Emirates is the company’s biggest A380 customer, with 75 superjumbos in its fleet and a further 140 on order.

Emirates is also developing a second-generation A380 suite, which Clark has likened to "a private bedroom on a luxury yacht”, in response to Etihad’s A380 first class ‘apartments’.

Etihad's A380 Apartment suite set a whole new level of luxe
Etihad's A380 Apartment suite set a whole new level of luxe

Read: Emirates to launch new luxury first class A380 suites next year

“I think you’ll see Emirates going with higher levels of passenger comfort in their first class and business class product” Leahy predicts. “I would not see Tim stagnating, I would see him doing more.”

Similarly, A380 launch customer Singapore Airlines plans to upgrade its first class suites with a noticeably larger footprint in time for the airline's next raft of superjumbo deliveries in 2017.

Also read: Concept designs for new Singapore Airlines first, business class

David Flynn travelled to Hamburg as a guest of Airbus.

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

05 May 2016

Total posts 583

And still we wait with baited breath to hear if QANTAS will eventually refurbish their A380s and wonder if that happens what changes that will bring.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 213

QF introduced A380's into service in 2008, and we should expect to see a refurbishment in 2017/18 (halfway thru their operational life). Nothing official from QF channels yet, but you can be assured it's firmly in their mid-term schedules, as the A380 product is no longer competitive in the marketplace.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 994

I'm expecting to hear some sort of announcement about the A380 product shortly after the A330 refits are complete.

The timing of the first batch of 787s arriving, the due date for finishing the A330 refits and the remaining life in the non ER 747s all overlap in a way that would allow for an A380 refit after the 330s are done, once the 787s start arriving and before the 5 non ERs are retired.

07 Feb 2016

Total posts 23

Airbus is being overly optimistic with its Airbus A380. Emirates and Singapore Airlines developing new A380 first class products isn't exactly good news for the A380 program itself, especially considering that SIA will use its five new frames to replace existing examples.


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