As good fortune and careful scheduling would have it, the return leg of my Hong Kong trip was aboard THAI Airways’ new Airbus A380. The A380, affectionately known as the Whale Jet because of its profile, is the world’s largest passenger jet, eclipsing the venerable Boeing 747’s floor space by almost half.
The first A380 went into service in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines after lengthy production delays. These delays produced a roll-over effect and THAI Airways, the ninth operator of the type, just received its first aircraft this past September. (Only 92 aircraft delivered in five years…) Initially, THAI used the airplane for Singapore and Hong Kong flights before adding Frankfurt and Tokyo.
Unlike the Boeing 747, which has only a upper deck for only part of the length of the aircraft, the Airbus A380 has a full upper deck. This means that airport receiving regular A380 service need to have passenger jet bridges that can reach doors on both the upper and lower deck. In Hong Kong, one jet bridge is used for each level, although in many airports there are two lower level jet bridges and one upper level.
Most airlines reserve the upper deck for First and/or Business Class passengers. In THAI’s configuration, there is a small economy class cabin on the upper deck, the final eight rows of the plane. When you book your flight online and choose your seat assignment, the small upper deck cabin is not visible. Knowing that those seats existed, I had to visit a THAI ticket office and request an upstairs seat. Above, a view of this economy class cabin, which has a pair of exits in the middle of it, making for some generous leg room.
I was able to secure the last available window seat, the one you see on the left-hand side of the picture with the bin open next to it. One of the nice things about the upper deck is that there are small storage bins underneath the windows to supplement the overhead bins. This makes it easy to store small bags out of the way, freeing up your leg room while keeping items close at hand.
A look forward past the economy class cabin into the large business class cabin. Two interesting things I observed: there is a small security camera in each of the bulkheads, allowing crew members to see what is happening in each cabin, even if the curtains are closed. Also the overhead bins above the center seats have a different shape in business class than they do in economy. Usually, a single design is used in most aircraft.
Another nice feature of the A380 is the tail-mounted camera. You can watch the view on your seat back monitor. Unfortunately, there appeared to be some dirt (bird poop?) on the lens, making the view a bit less enjoyable. I have been on other airplanes that have cameras located under the fuselage looking forward or down, but this tail camera seems to be a consistent feature of the A380.
Taxiing to the runway, you can see a Russian made cargo jet and on the mountain behind, the tower from the Nong Ping 360 gondola. Here’s the view from the gondola at just about that tower, as I wrote about in this entry.
The view of the New Territories about a minute after takeoff. I lived in Hong Kong in 1998-99, not long after the new airport opened. In those days, there was significantly less development in this part of Hong Kong. Nowadays, there are clusters of high rise buildings everywhere as the city continues to grow, mostly vertically.
Inflight dining: chicken and greens served over egg noodles. There was also a salad of chicken and mixed vegetables and a panna cotta with berry coulis for dessert. The food was decent.
As a comparison, here is the food we were served out of Bangkok, a Penang curry with chicken and bitter melon. It was very tasty, actually so much so that if they served it from a restaurant, I would seek it out. Also interesting that the service out of Bangkok had sturdier dishes for the main course as opposed to the aluminum ones out of Hong Kong. The salad was a so-so shrimp salad and the dessert was a mediocre chocolate mousse.
If you would like to see highlights of the entire trip, include a tour through the business class and first class cabins upon landing, please view the six-minute video above. Coincidentally, on my way out the business class cabin, I was recognized by one of the flight attendants, a friend of one of Tawn’s friends.
Another video covering my flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong aboard a Boeing B777-200, is located here.
In this final shot from the gate in Bangkok, you can see that there are three passenger jet bridges attached to the plane, two on the lower level and one on the upper level. They have to be very careful as the bridge are close to each other.
Here is a view of the two forward bridges taken from the window on the upper deck bridge. I hope you enjoyed the trip!
nice airbus-I don’t fly much but back in 1972 I got to fly a 747
Very cool first class and the rest was none too shabby either! Why do you get such good plane food? The last time we took a flight we got a half a can of soda and some pretzels on a 4 hr flight!
Looks like that is the airline to use.
I most certainly did. Very informative.
The penang curry is making me salivate! I want to fly with this airline just for food!
Ohh…. A380 and 777 airplane porn!!! I can’t think of anything more erotic – aside from running up and down the runway butt naked. Thank you for posting these videos (I will have to clean myself now).
Individual tv screens plus a rear view camera. I wonder if you can wander on the plane on longer flights? So the number of drinks available gets increased the longer you are on a flight?
hi,thank you for the informative videos. Do they have this background music every time @ landing ? Cheers, Michel
@michelmthomas – Thanks for your comment Michael. Yes, generally THAI plays this easy listening music during approach and landing. Very elevator.@PPhilip – I’m sure you are welcome to wander in your own cabin during the flight. For economy class, you can take the spiral stairway to the lower deck and walk the entire length of the plane. For the folks in first and business classes, their cabins are a lot smaller.@ElusiveWords – Always do it for you, Matt.@Inciteful – Good, it achieved its purpose then.@awoolham – @murisopsis – Generally speaking, THAI’s inflight catering is very good, especially out of Bangkok. In fact, most airlines’ catering out of Bangkok is notably better than at many other cities, probably because THAI runs the main catering kitchen here.@Fatcat723 – Sadly, they fly only to and from Bangkok…@Texasjillcarmel – Which is still my favorite airplane. Much more graceful, I think, than the A380.
I just did that exact leg this past Sunday in J. I’ll post up pics for you of you’d like.
@LostSock21 – Would love to see them, thanks.
I just love to fly!And I always want their peanuts! LOL
Ugh…I hate airplane food. I hate reheated food. Every flavor just gets mixed in together.Pasta taste like meat, and meat taste like carrots.Yuck.Also, the steam coming out of the tray reminds me that I need a shower immediately because I’ve been on a flight for that long.
Now, that’s one big bird! Thanks for the pics..extremely interesting!
I was thinking that the plane seemed very quiet — and then your comment! The wing flaps are a little spooky — so many, going so many different directions of up and down. It looks like a nice airplane! Next, you’ll have to try a 787!
I have never traveled on a plane that large; It would certainly be an experience, I think.
wow, i’m not sure i’d like to travel on an airplane that large; i’ve never even been on a 747. i’d be pretty anxious to see how long the lines were for the lavatories hahaha.
Now that looks like a comfortable plane to travel on. I wacthed both videos, the one here and the one on you tube. Amazing! Now that is the way to travel.
@SherryAngeLMysteriez – Ironically, no peanuts served on THAI Airways. Thanks for the recommendation!@Grannys_Place – Thanks for viewing the videos. Glad you enjoyed them. Thanks, too, for the recommendation.@kunhuo42 – You’ve never been on the 747? As a Hawai’i native? I guess the days of flying the 747 there are long gone but I would have guessed you would have flown it a few times in your childhood at least. As for the lav lines, not a problem because the ratio of lavs to passengers remains about the same.@TutelageOfTheMundane – Especially getting to climb a spiral staircase from the main deck to the upper deck. Can’t do that on a United Express puddle-jumper!@slmret – Actually, I have my eye on the 787 for the next trip to the US. All Nippon is flying into San Jose, which is where I’m from. Am curious to fly the plane, especially into that airport.@crankycaregiver – Glad you enjoyed. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.@Wangium – Generally speaking, airplane food is pretty pathetic. The curry seemed to hold up well, maybe because curry actually improves with some rest.
What??? Not peanuts! Other airlines has peanuts. hehe …
I flew the same plane from HK to BKK on my way to Rangon. It was certainly roomy in all ways and the Thai airline colors were soothing to the eye. Much better than the China Southern 380 I flew from Beijing to HK.
@christao408 – I think I’d like to know that the bugs are out of the 787 before I try it!
@slmret – Given that the plane has flown about 1.5 million flight hours with a very high rate of reliability, I’m going to assume that these few recent events are probably not that big a deal. Am confident everything will be sorted out in due time.
@snowjunky8 – Not surprised to hear that THAI is a more soothing passenger experience than China Southern…
@christao408 – I hope that’s the case — perhaps the battery needs upgrading, or more frequent changes. I’m sure it’s probably a glitch connected with newness, but I’m glad they’re looking into it properly.
Oh surprise n sad to see TG catering out of HKG has changed, from a full size tray to 2/3 size and the main course from a casserole dish to a tin foil container…….just like something I see everyday …………miss the good old stuff…..
@agmhkg – Could that have anything to do with the equipment? Perhaps the A380 is equipped with carts that better hold the 2/3 size tray?
@christao408 – not sure cos SQ is still using the full size tray and casserole dish on their A380 regional flights The same when I was flying on the Their upper deck EY 2 years ago…. having said that, on long haul flight, lots of the airlines using full size tray on the first meal,while the 2/3 size tray for the second since the 2nd meal usually offer less
yay for you. i experienced my first A380 with SQ between jakarta and tokyo, last year. in my opinion, it’s too large. i got the upper deck. had to wait longer to get in and get out.
@rudyhou – The sheer volume of passengers is definitely an issue. Lots of people mean long queues…