Gatwick Airport, which serves London, UK, is now prepared to welcome the world’s biggest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380.
A £6.4 million investment at the airport has culminated in the opening of a new, pier-served A380 stand. Stand 110 on pier 6 is officially christened today when Emirates makes a one-off flight to the airport with one of its fleet of A380’s. Following the celebration, Gatwick will be looking to attract regular scheduled flights from other operators of the giant aircraft.
Gatwick’s chief commercial officer, Guy Stephenson, said, ‘Gatwick is delighted to officially open its A380 stand today, marking an important milestone in the development and growth of the airport as a world-class aviation facility. The new stand is a symbol of the major changes that have happened at Gatwick under new ownership. The fact we can now offer current and future airlines a pier-served facility for A380 aircraft demonstrates the scale of ambition we have for the future of Gatwick as we continue on our journey to compete and grow.’
While Emirates has the biggest fleet of A380’s currently in operation, many other airlines worldwide also have them at their disposal, and the Gatwick authorities are optimistic that the airport’s ability to accommodate the aircraft will help it grow its passenger numbers without impinging too much on its available runway capacity. Able to carry 525 passengers in standard three-class configuration, and as many as 853 in all-economy mode, the A380 certainly has the credentials to boost throughput at the airport from the current 34 million passengers per annum, towards the 38 million that it is forecast to achieve by 2020.
Laurie Berryman, Emirates Vice President UK, said, ‘As the largest A380 operator in the world, it is a historic moment to see one of our A380s use the new Gatwick stand for the first time at the official opening. It shows once again that Emirates is the go-to airline when it comes to the A380 aircraft.’
British Airways, the UK-based air carrier, has confirmed the first routes to be flown by its superjumbo Airbus A380 aircraft.
From October 15 this year the new aircraft will be flying from Heathrow Airport in the UK to Los Angeles in the US. Tickets for the flights are available to book from today.
Today is also the launch date for tickets for BA’s second A380 route to Hong Kong, with that service commencing from November 15 this year. However, according to the company, other flights could predate these following delivery of the first aircraft in July, with a statement saying, ‘A380 enthusiasts eager to be on the very first commercial services should note that dates for these will be announced once plans for training flights are completed.’
Special inaugural prices are available on both of the newly announced routes, with BA’s World Traveller return tickets to Los Angeles costing £499, and the same grade of ticket to Hong Kong costing £599. For the LA flight, a World Traveller Plus upgrade costs £380, and £3,800 is the starting price for two passengers travelling with the Club World service.
More information on the A380 service is available on BA’s website.
The double-deck, wide-body four-engine A380 is manufactured by Airbus, a European corporation, as its answer to Boeing’s monopoly in the large aircraft market. Currently the world’s largest passenger airliner, several major airports have had to upgrade their facilities to accommodate it. The aircraft’s full-length second deck helps to provide a total capacity of 525 passengers when it is equipped for three classes of travel, or 853 passengers when it is equipped solely for economy class.
In a survey carried out by Jetcost.co.uk recently, around 53 percent of British passengers have cited adults-only flights as their first choice in air travel.
The poll, which canvassed the opinions of around 1,666 adults in the UK, has cited loud children as one of the biggest causes of stress in a flight, ahead of poor quality food and lack of legroom. Around 20 percent of those surveyed also cited reclining seats as causes of discomfort when used by neighbouring passengers, and more than half registered their dislike of airlines that do not provide allocated seating.
The issue of child-free flights, though controversial, seems to have struck a chord with the aviation industry. This week Malaysia Airlines has updated its policy for child passengers, banning them from upper deck of its Airbus A380 fleet.
The policy, which came into force recently, means that families travelling with children below the age of 12 years will be limited to a certain segment of the airplane on these flights. The airline is justifying its decision by saying that an overwhelming number of its passengers have complained about the noise created by children during flights.
Tengku Azmil, the airline chief executive officer, commented that many passengers had complained on Twitter that they had paid a premium to fly first class but had been unable to sleep due to crying infants.
The airline does however have a policy that allows for families with children to board first, as they take longer to organise themselves and take their seats inside an aircraft.