Review: Inaugural Emirates A380 Trans Tasman

Background

I was invited by Emirates to join their inaugural A380 flight from Sydney to Auckland and back on the same day. I am particularly keen on photographing their splendid and luxurious cabin and compare with Singapore and Qantas A380 which I have flown and toured previously.

Emirates have invited about 20-30 airport officials, business and media on the day to sample the A380 across the Tasman in First and Business class, product demo on the A380, a local New Zealand wine yard visit and return Limo transfer to and from home.

02 Feb 2009

I started the day by having a quick hot shower at 05:30 and the limo (a Holden Caprice. The last time I travelled with Emirates I scored a nice BMW 745 series) is waiting by 05:50 and arrived Sydney airport at 06:30 for the 08:30 departure flight on EK412. (Inbound from Dubai and continue to Auckland)

Emirates use the Western end of Int’l Terminal (T1) at Sydney Int’l. There were 2 separate areas for check in, one for First and Business and another whole row for Economy. Check in was a breeze and I received boarding pass, lounge invitation and Fast Track Immigration. Emirates have invited Sydney Symphony for music entertainment at the check in lounge.

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The Emirates Lounge in Sydney is situated on the lower ground floor near Gate 59. It is the best lounge in Sydney Airport in my opinion. When I step in the lounge, I received the official invitation envelope and card for the day’s A380 demo event. At the same time, A6-EDD just taxied past the window after arrival and certainly attracted all eyes in the lounge.

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Emirates have set up a small stage to celebrate the A380 flight to Sydney, hosted by the VP of Australia, Stephen Pearse and Richard Vaughan, Emirates’ Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, East Asia & Australasia. The NSW Minister for Tourism also attended the event.

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Above Photo: Emirates VP of Australia, Stephen Pearse made welcome speech to the guest and media.

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Richard Vaughan, Emirates’ Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, East Asia & Australasia presents an Emirates A380 model to the Tourism Minister of NSW.

After the ceremony, I have a quick bite in the dining area and there are many cocktails, champagne and canapés flowing around for guests and passengers.

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I also have the pleasure to meet Isabelle Chu in the lounge, a very famous A380 inaugural flyers in the lounge. Isabelle is a director/partner of a Corporate Travel Agent in Perth, Australia and an enthusiast in grand scale, she had flown the inaugural SQ A345 to LA/NY, SQ A380 to Sydney and London (and Paris soon). She had also flown the inaugural Qantas A380 from MEL to LAX and Emirates A380 from DXB to JFK.

Flight EK412 started boarding around 0815 at Gate 61, there are 3 airbridges with one goes straight to the upper deck door.

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A6-EDD waits for the maiden voyage to Auckland, New Zealand!!

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Emirates handed out chocolates for all passengers onboard the inaugural flight today.

Welcome Aboard Emirates A380

My seat, 11A, the 3rd window seat in Business Class. Although I was one of the last passengers to board the aircraft, the very busy crews still manage to deliver Champagne and amenity kit featuring Bulgari hand cream and cologne.

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We pushed back slightly late and lined up on runway 34L around 0910 local time.

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The tail camera view of A6-EDD lining up on Rwy 34L.

The Departure

It was a powerful, yet quiet and effortless takeoff; we rotated around ½ way down the 13000 feet runway and initially heading North direction. The cruise level is 41,000 feet. Flight time is a short 2 hrs 40 minutes. The pilot, Wayne Taylor is from New Zealand (how nice for him to fly the giant A380 back home!!) and First officer Grant Fichera is from Australia.

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Above picture: Climbing out of Rwy34L with some condensation over the engine. The smaller window of A380 (and most Airbuses) makes it difficult to photograph.

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The in flight service starts promptly after we reached our initial cruise level. The crew set up our table individually and serves course by course instead of a “one tray” approach.

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I have a glass of Moet and Chandon for the start. The crew will serve Brunch on the short flight to Auckland with 2 course meals. Unfortunately they ran out of menu of this flight.

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Fruit Plate, croissant and banana bread to start with the Brunch

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The main course of today’s brunch is Rivioli with Mushroom, the serving was quite small but the taste exceeded most Italian Restaurants. The other choice being Scramble Eggs with Smoke Salmon.

After the meal service, I head down to the bar, which located at the very end of the upper deck. There were lot of people and the bartender is happy to serve any drinks you name it.

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There are a lot of room around the bar and one can sit down on the four seater on each side and there is a large LCDTV with in-flight map and news showing. Personally, I think this is an excellent feature, it offers ample room for people who want to socialize and moves around during a long haul flight. I have experienced the upper class bar of Virgin Atlantic on a few occasions but given the incredible space of the A380, Emirates has the nicest bar in the sky!

After the bar, I returned to the seat and listened to some relaxing music while browse the latest ICE offering. I found the airshow excellent in graphics and very informative. It displays the Rego of the plane (one will never look out the window now!), all the standard cruising info and an interactive map of the plane’s position. (360 degrees)

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View of 41,000 feet above the Tasman Sea from the bar.

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I founded the window seat on A380 very private. Every seat in Business class have its own aisle access without tripping over any neighbours. Window seat A and K offer the best privacy. The aisle seat can feel more cramp due to the near proximity to the aisle. The 2 seater in the middle (D and E) are also great for pairs travelling.

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The seat also come with massage function (waves, pulse, regular , zig zag...) with different area and intensity. When in fully flat position, my feet does not touch the wall. It fits a 1.95 m tall person with no problem in fully flat mode!

After 2 hrs 30 minutes from Sydney, we start to descend into Auckland Int’l.

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A view of New Zealand shores.

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Short approach on Rwy 23L on a glorious day in Auckland. A huge amount of crowd turned up in the viewing area (not visible in the photo)

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EK412 finally touch down around 13:47 local time in Auckland. The plane touched down gently although I feel it “fishtailed” during landing a bit. We rolled all the way till the end of Rwy23L and head to Gate 15. We received a very warm welcome by the Auckland airport Fire Brigade, a great water cannon salute resulted the glass being washed and wet.

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One last look of A6-EDD who carried me to New Zealand.

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With a firm touchdown in Auckland, the first part of the journey comes to an end, but there's still the welcome ceremony to attend. All invited guests were escorted out of the plane and head back to the security screening to go upstairs for the ceremony.

The Ceremony

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Emirates sure knows how to celebrate in style, over 100 guests were invited for the ceremony and touring of the aircraft.

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Richard Vaughan, Emirates’ Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, East Asia & Australasia with the tourism minister of New Zealand and Auckland airport executive.

All invited guest on the day received a well presented gift bag, inside the gift bag includes a Herpa 1:500 EK A380 model, an Emirates A380 book by Andrew Spaeth and other goodies.

After the ceremony, media were given chances to tour the cabin (all clean and well presented) of the A380.

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Trip Reflection

The flight on the inaugural Emirates A380 SYD-AKL-SYD left extremely positive and proud memory. I enjoyed the overall experience and highly recommend to anyone who shares the same passion. Emirates have grown and became very sophisticated from my first flight with them many years ago. The customer services from reservation to ground staff to flight attendants are simply superb. To me, good customer service means to deliver beyond what a customer expects and never say “No” to your passengers request. Emirates should be very proud of their talented and well presented multi-lingual staff. Co-incidentally my best flight of 2005 and 2006 was also on Emirates. I know A380 on EK412/413 will be very well received and very popular with the travelers. Congratulations to Emirates on putting out such world class products!

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