TwuToday

Business_news I flew on an Air France Airbus A380 2 years before the airline suddenly retired the world’s largest passenger plane — here’s what it was like

Business_news

An Air France Airbus A380.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


  • Air France is retiring its Airbus A380 fleet as the coronavirus pandemic saw a drop in passengers that makes the aircraft impractical.
  • I flew Air France on the aircraft in economy class from Los Angeles to Paris in November 2018.
  • I found the 516-seat jet to be incredibly comfortable and spacious with the Air France service impeccably complementing the feat of engineering that is the Airbus A380.
  • Visit business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Air France hasannouncedthe immediate retirement of its Airbus A380 fleet as it no longer sees the demand for the 500-seat aircraft amid a slow return to normal for an industry plagued by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The abrupt retirement ended an 11-year run between the French carrier and Airbus’ towering creation that replaced the Boeing 747 as the world’s largest passenger plane when it first took flight in 2005. While once the flagship of the European manufacturer, the A380’s success has been slow-going, with only a handful of major airlines taking on orders for the type. 

Initially intended to increase capacity between major cities and, in turn, reduce the number of frequencies that airlines would need to fly, the arrival of efficient next-generation aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner quickly made the A380 obsolete. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, whose airline operates both the A380 and 787, noted thattwo Dreamliner flights could be flown cheaper than one A380 flight. 

The French flag carrier itself only purchased 10 of the type and later focused more on the new twin-engine next-generation aircraft from Boeing and Airbus. Less than two years before its retirement, in 2018, I flew on an Air France A380 from Los Angeles to Paris, my first and likely last time on the Super Jumbo. 

Here’s what it was like to fly on an Air France Airbus A380.

flights per day at its peak on the airline's largest aircraft. I flew the Los Angeles-Paris route in November 2018 during the Thanksgiving rush." id="los-angeles-is-one-of-air-frances-top-destinations-in-the-us-receiving-around-three-flights-per-day-at-its-peak-on-the-airlines-largest-aircraft-i-flew-the-los-angeles-paris-route-in-november-2018-during-the-thanksgiving-rush-1">

Business_news Los Angeles is one of Air France’s top destinations in the US, receiving around three flights per day at its peak on the airline’s largest aircraft. I flew the Los Angeles-Paris route in November 2018 during the Thanksgiving rush.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Like most European airlines serving Los Angeles, Air France departs from the Tom Bradley International Terminal, one of the largest and arguably nicest terminals at the nine-terminal airport.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news It’s a cavernous building currently in the process of being expanded to include a second concourse.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Our flight to Paris would be departing at 3: 30 p.m. along with a few other intercontinental departures on Airbus A380s.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news The journey time for AF65, which previously was the only Airbus A380 service from Los Angeles to Paris, was scheduled at 10 hours and 45 minutes, the longest flight I’ve ever taken in economy class even today.



Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Flying on the A380 for the first time, however, greatly surpassed my reservations of being crammed into economy for nearly half a day." id="the-excitement-of-flying-on-the-a380-for-the-first-time-however-greatly-surpassed-my-reservations-of-being-crammed-into-economy-for-nearly-half-a-day-6">

Business_news The excitement of Flying on the A380 for the first time, however, greatly surpassed my reservations of being crammed into economy for nearly half a day.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Gates with jetways that connect directly to the upper level." id="boarding-the-colossal-aircraft-required-multiple-jetways-and-luckily-los-angeles-had-special-a380-capable-gates-with-jetways-that-connect-directly-to-the-upper-level-7">

Business_news Boarding the colossal aircraft required multiple jetways and luckily, Los Angeles had special A380-capable Gates with jetways that connect directly to the upper level.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Flying. An Air France A380 can hold 516 passengers!" id="we-began-boarding-the-flight-45-minutes-before-departure-to-account-for-the-size-of-the-aircraft-and-the-number-of-passengers-flying-an-air-france-a380-can-hold-516-passengers-8">

Business_news We began boarding the flight 45 minutes before departure to account for the size of the aircraft and the number of passengers Flying. An Air France A380 can hold 516 passengers!

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


business class, premium economy, and a small economy section." id="the-upper-level-housed-business-class-premium-economy-and-a-small-economy-section-9">

Business_news The upper level housed business class, premium economy, and a small economy section.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


business class seats were noticeably older but still looked quite comfortable. The only downside was that the seats did not recline fully flat, only angled flat." id="the-business-class-seats-were-noticeably-older-but-still-looked-quite-comfortable-the-only-downside-was-that-the-seats-did-not-recline-fully-flat-only-angled-flat-10">

Business_news The business class seats were noticeably older but still looked quite comfortable. The only downside was that the seats did not recline fully flat, only angled flat.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Premium economy was arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


business class." id="the-seats-looked-near-identical-to-those-in-business-class-12">

Business_news The seats looked near-identical to those in business class.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news The main level consisted of economy and first class, known as La Premiere on Air France.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Economy is configured in a high-density 3-4-3 configuration with 389 seats in total.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Source:SeatGuru

Business_news Air France had clearly never bothered to update the seats on the Airbus A380 but that was actually a plus as they were the plush design that airlines have since abandoned for low-weight, slimline seats.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Here’s my window seat for the near 11-hour flight to Paris.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news The downside of the interior’s old age, however, was the in-flight entertainment. Though a far cry from the high-definition screens to which flyers are now accustomed today, the system was packed with modern content.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news The seat included standard amenities such as a USB charging port and tethered remote, as well as some interesting quirks including a cup holder and a passport-sized compartment behind the tray table.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news The remote also had a telephone capability at one point but it had been inactive during our flight.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Another downside was the lack of overhead air vents, typical for larger aircraft like the A380.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Even with a 10-seat abreast configuration in economy with 17.5-inch wide seats, the A380 was so massive that there were a few inches of space between window seats and the cabin wall. Economy seats also had 32 inches of legroom.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Source:SeatGuru

Business_news The windows were also enormous, allowing for great in-flight photos and letting in bounds of natural light.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Gates in Los Angeles at the same time again." id="other-a380-departures-at-the-time-included-lufthansas-daily-flight-to-frankfurt-and-emirates-to-dubai-the-trio-unfortunately-will-never-grace-the-gates-in-los-angeles-at-the-same-time-again-24">

Business_news Other A380 departures at the time included Lufthansa’s daily flight to Frankfurt and Emirates’ to Dubai. The trio, unfortunately, will never grace the Gates in Los Angeles at the same time again.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news A pillow, blanket, headset, and eye mask were placed at each seat, which came in handy for the overnight portion of the journey.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news After a roaring departure out of Los Angeles, it was onward to Paris for the next 10 hours.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


ride as we sailed across the US, an aircraft unlike anything I'd experienced before." id="the-aircraft-offered-an-incredibly-smooth-ride-as-we-sailed-across-the-us-an-aircraft-unlike-anything-id-experienced-before-27">

Business_news The aircraft offered an incredibly smooth ride as we sailed across the US, an aircraft unlike anything I’d experienced before.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news The meal service began just after departure from Los Angeles, starting with a pre-packaged towel.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news On the menu for the evening was chicken in a pepper and sherry sauce with cilantro rice or conchiglie pasta with tomato and basil sauce. I opted for the chicken.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news The flight was sufficiently crowded to justify the use of an A380. Other aircraft on the route include a Boeing 777-300ER and 777-200, the latter of which continues on to Tahiti.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Our route took us across the continental US before heading north to join the other transatlantic aircraft heading to Europe and beyond.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


flights owing to its French heritage so I went with that to accompany some pretzels." id="snacks-and-beverages-came-first-before-the-meal-service-air-france-offers-complimentary-champagne-on-its-flights-owing-to-its-french-heritage-so-i-went-with-that-to-accompany-some-pretzels-33">

Business_news Snacks and beverages came first before the meal service. Air France offers complimentary champagne on its flights owing to its French heritage so I went with that to accompany some pretzels.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Then the meal came, which was one of the best I’ve had in the skies.



Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


lights dimmed after the meal so we could get some sleep for the journey, with some multi-colored lights slightly illuminating the cabin." id="the-lights-dimmed-after-the-meal-so-we-could-get-some-sleep-for-the-journey-with-some-multi-colored-lights-slightly-illuminating-the-cabin-35">

Business_news The lights dimmed after the meal so we could get some sleep for the journey, with some multi-colored lights slightly illuminating the cabin.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news After a few hours of sleep, I spent some time wandering around the aircraft as I wanted to explore the behemoth.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Options included cakes, ice cream, and candies, among others.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Even yogurt drinks and pre-packaged sandwiches were there for the taking.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Flying just a bit higher than the rest." id="i-then-wandered-upstairs-to-see-what-the-upper-level-had-to-offer-i-always-found-it-fascinating-to-be-on-one-plane-but-have-passengers-on-the-upper-deck-be-flying-just-a-bit-higher-than-the-rest-40">

Business_news I then wandered upstairs to see what the upper level had to offer. I always found it fascinating to be on one plane but have passengers on the upper deck be Flying just a bit higher than the rest.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


business class cabin, Air France placed a tiny lounge with leather-covered benches and video screens showing scenes from France." id="in-the-very-front-of-the-upper-level-technically-part-of-the-business-class-cabin-air-france-placed-a-tiny-lounge-with-leather-covered-benches-and-video-screens-showing-scenes-from-france-41">

Business_news In the very front of the upper level, technically part of the business class cabin, Air France placed a tiny lounge with leather-covered benches and video screens showing scenes from France.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news It was located right next to the grand staircase connecting the upper and lower levels in the front of the aircraft.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Flying through the night across the North Atlantic Ocean, it was time for breakfast about 90 minutes from landing." id="after-flying-through-the-night-across-the-north-atlantic-ocean-it-was-time-for-breakfast-about-90-minutes-from-landing-43">

Business_news After Flying through the night across the North Atlantic Ocean, it was time for breakfast about 90 minutes from landing.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news Here’s a look at the tray including a hot breakfast sandwich with mushrooms and tomatoes, a cup of fruit, pound cake, yogurt, and a roll with butter and jelly. It was quite the feast for economy class.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news The final piece of the service was a small candy distributed by flight attendants just before landing.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


Business_news A few minutes later, our massive four-engine jet returned to Earth, touching down in Paris.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


fly on either Air France or the A380, I'll never have the opportunity to fly on an Air France A380 again." id="arriving-at-paris-charles-de-gaulle-airport-my-first-air-france-and-airbus-a380-flight-was-complete-while-the-opportunity-continues-to-fly-on-either-air-france-or-the-a380-ill-never-have-the-opportunity-to-fly-on-an-air-france-a380-again-47">

Business_news Arriving at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, my first Air France and Airbus A380 flight was complete. While the opportunity continues to fly on either Air France or the A380, I’ll never have the opportunity to fly on an Air France A380 again.

Flying Air France from Los Angeles to Paris.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider


More:

Features
Planes
BITranspo
CT Visual Features


Chevron icon
It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.


Read More