Do you remember the day you became a travel agent? Did you, after you’d settled in, say to yourself something like, “well, now that I’m in the exciting world of travel, I’m going to &.” and you put down something you wanted to do in the travel industry. Something exciting. Something different. Well, all my life I’ve been fascinated by the commercial airline industry and the aircraft they fly a fascination that’s included customer service jobs with British Airways and PR manager for Continental Airlines.
When the Airbus company announced they were going to build the world's largest jet liner, I was intrigued - never dreaming that when the A380 eventually came to Los Angeles, I was going to be among the fortunate few invited on a 90-minute demonstration flight above southern California. Since 1992, I’ve been on LA radio hosting shows about travel - because of this, Qantas the first airline to fly the A380 into Los Angeles in October 2008. Airbus and the Los Angeles World Airports sent me an invitation for Thursday, November 29th, 2007. When it came one envious friend of mine told me it was “the hottest ticket in town.”
Boarding took place at the Los Angeles Flight Path Learning Center and, even in the half-light of early morning, when I saw the A380, she was as advertised. Huge. Enormous. And looked like a sleeping giant. One hundred and fifty VIP’s boarded the flight, along with 10 members of the media. As I walked slowly up the pre-positioned boarding steps I felt like a kid in a candy store about to enter wonderland.
After finding my seat at the plane’s mid section, I looked out the window (one of 220) to see if we were moving because I couldn’t hear the usual engine whine that one always hears aboard a jet, but I heard nothing the A380’s engines built by Rolls Royce are literally whisper quiet. Each seat back has a state of the art video monitor and, because there’s a video camera high up on the tail, you get a unique view of the aircraft and scenery throughout the entire flight. I must tell you that this is especially riveting to watch during take-off and landing.
We turned onto LAX’s 25L, an 11,095-foot runway, and started our take-off roll, but as the plane gathered speed I felt sure we were going too slowly to become airborne. Then, after only 29 seconds, this gargantuan 617-ton giant lifted her nose into the air, her massive wings flexed upwards and silently, powerfully, effortlessly, pointed herself towards the heavens, majestically moving into the blue skies above Los Angeles. This was, to be sure, magical aviation personified.
Back on the ground after the flight, I couldn’t help but wonder about the landing gear how many actual tires does it have? Well there are 22, that’s 20 on the main landing gear in the center of the aircraft, and two upfront in the nose gear.
Since I’d been reading so much about all the various options each airline has for how they want their A380 customized, such as 12 suites with double beds etc., I could hardly restrain my impatience to see what this aircraft had in store and was a bit saddened by the fact that it was what Airbus calls a “demonstration” plane and did not have suites. Still, the plane is gigantic on the lower deck there were 12 wonderfully comfortable first-class seats that could be converted into lie-flat beds and 307 seats in economy. On the upper deck there were 64 very comfortable business-class seats/lie-flat beds and 136 so called seats in “regular” economy. It may sound funny to say this, but it was a thrill to go down the winding back staircase from the top deck to the main deck and then to go all the way forward and climb up the elegant and very wide stair case at the front of the A380. This staircase is so wide that three people can walk up or down in line abreast with one another. The main deck also had a cozy “Welcome Desk,” along with a first-class bar all very tasteful, all very luxurious.
Qantas offers travel agent commissions of 3 percent uncapped for business and first-class fares. No commissions are offered for economy fares.