Giant airliners: Does size matter?

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Giant airliners: Does size matter?

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An Airbus A380 flown by Korean Airlines arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Friday to a spectacular water cannon salute. The airport held a ceremony to welcome the world's largest airliner, which began nonstop service between Atlanta and Seoul this week.


The gigantic, four-engine, double-decker airliner has been in service around the world for six years, but has been too big for Atlanta's airport -- until now. Last year, some 95 million passengers passed through the airport, making it the busiest in the world.


Officials from Korean Airlines, the City of Atlanta, and the airport cut a ribbon to inaugurate the A380 service. The airport spent about $30 million in modifications to make room for the giant plane. Atlanta is now the seventh U.S. airport that can accommodate the Superjumbo.


Korean Airlines flight attendants prepare for the return flight to Seoul in one of the A380's galleys.


The A380 is the only airliner with double-decker floors from front to back. Passengers take this stairway near the front of the aircraft to the business class section on level two.


The airline has chosen a roomy seating configuration for the A380. It seats a maximum of 407 passengers -- fewer than any other A380 operator, according to Korean Airlines.


First-class passengers aboard Korean Airlines' A380 have access to these spacious compartments featuring added privacy and lie-flat seats, which certainly will come in handy during a trans-Pacific flight that lasts around 13 hours.


The Korean Airlines A380 boasts a lounge area that entices passengers to spread out and relax.


The plane boasts 16 passenger doors.


Convenient power and data ports have been inserted between the seats.


The upper deck of the A380 is entirely devoted to business class passengers. Amenities include adjustable reading lights between the seats.


Passengers can enjoy breathtaking high-altitude views through the 220 large windows that dot the cabin.


It takes two jetways to get hundreds of passengers on and off an A380 safely and quickly. Atlanta spent time and money modifying Gate E3. Additional modified jetways for the Superjumbo may come later.


The A380 departs Friday on its return trip to Seoul. Korean Airlines offers this nonstop A380 route three times a week.


























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Atlanta's becomes 7th U.S. airport where the giant A380 airliner can land
The A380 seats up to 853 passengers compared with Boeing 747-8's 400 to 500
The Superjumbo has 50% more floor space than any other airliner
Are bigger airliners better? Passengers, airline experts weigh in




Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Superjumbo, the world's largest passenger plane, has finally conquered the world's busiest airport.
Korean Air kicked off its double-decker Airbus A380 service this week from Seoul to Atlanta, which celebrated Friday with a spectacular ceremony.
Shortly after touching down, Flight 035 slowly taxied to its specially modified gate under a towering arch of water cannons. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport, which handled some 95 million passengers last year, is now the seventh U.S. airfield able to handle this ginormous aircraft.
But nearly six years after the Superjumbo entered service, it's unclear whether bigger is necessarily better.










A380 facts











Google Street View explored an Emirates Airbus A380 from nose to tail. Here the Business Class bar at the back of the plane appears well stocked for its next flight.




A rare chance to explore the cockpit of the Airbus A380.




First Class passengers can feel fully refreshed by using the on board shower.




The great divide. Google's Street View reveals the lower deck is full of Economy Class seats, while the upper deck is the preserve of premium passengers.




The long range version of the A380 can accommodate 517 passengers.




Over five years Emirates' fleet of 35 A380s have flown over 265 million kilometers (165 million miles).




A British Airlines Airbus A380 flies over Le Bourget airport, near Paris, on June 18, 2013 during the 50th International Paris Air show.




Airbus say they have orders for 262 A380s from 20 customers.







A refreshing option at 40,000 feet



British Airways joins the A380 club







Google goes inside the Airbus A380











Every fortnight, the giant components of the Airbus A380 are hauled through the narrow streets of Levignac, southern France.




The aircraft's wingspan, fuselage and tail-plane are manufactured at different sites across Europe but are so large they can't be flown to the final assembly line in Toulouse. This has forced Airbus to create a whole new method to move them via land, river and sea.




After arriving in the port of Pauillac, south-western France, the A380 parts are transported down the River Garrone on a barge before passing through the towns of Eauze, L'ilse Jourdain and Levignac by road.




The journey takes four days and three nights to complete, requiring the help of 53 crew members, 31 vehicles, and 18 security staff.




It's hard to imagine airplane parts filling up this unassuming Levignac street, but that's exactly what happens when the A380 passes through.




Locals and tourists turn out to watch the procession of plane parts. And with the manufacturing serial number in full view it takes planespotting to a whole new level.




The convoy comes to an end at the French company's production plant. Once assembled the aircraft will be flown to its respective buyer. There are now 89 Airbus A380 planes operated by nine carriers around the world.








A380 wows French town






Tracking the A380 night convoy




'Biggest Beast' transforms small village




Inside the Airbus A380 assembly line




Rolls-Royce's new A380 engine factory




Airbus A380 cracks prompt inspections

Atlanta's airport spent about $30 million in passenger fees for runway, taxiway and jetway modifications, which enabled Bumshick Ehm -- one of Flight 035's approximately 350 passengers -- to easily exit the aircraft after a 13-hour, 7,100-mile nonstop journey.
Vine video of the Korean Airlines A380 taking off Friday
Ehm was returning home to Atlanta with his 3-year-old daughter after visiting family in Seoul. "Inside, when you're flying, it really doesn't feel that different from any other plane," said Ehm, 33. "But when you see it from the outside, you're reminded how huge it is."
More floor space and quieter engines
Air travel is projected to explode in the coming decades. Airlines are looking to freshen their fleets, while aircraft makers are pitching their new planes as the wave of the future. The A380 boasts quieter engines and lightweight construction to save fuel. And it's roomy -- with 50% more floor space than its competitor, the relatively new Boeing 747-8, which seats 400 to 500 passengers.
#ATL24: Behind the scenes at the world's busiest airport
More than four decades after the original 747 Jumbo Jet, it's hard for any giant airliner to avoid comparisons to the enormously successful icon.
Korean Air has taken some of the Superjumbo's floor space and created a "Celestial Bar" lounge hosted by a bartender. Also aboard is a "duty-free showcase" where passengers can shop for cosmetics, perfumes, liquor and accessories. Upstairs, they can find luxurious Kosmo First Class suites and lie-flat sleepers spaced 6 feet apart.
First class takes up the forward part of the lower floor with economy filling up the rear. Upstairs, it's all business class, offering comfy seating but less privacy. "The cabin is really modern," Ehm said. "I liked the duty-free shop, and the lounge made me feel like a VIP."
A cruise liner in the sky
"The reality is that if you're on the upper deck, you don't know there's another deck below you," says Brett Snyder of Crankyflier.com. A "And if you're on the lower deck, it's like sitting on a 747."



Superjumbo by the Numbers
2: Floors from front to back

2: Basketball courts that can fit on each wing

4: Engines

16: Passenger doors

22: Number of wheels

50% more floor space than any other airliner

81 feet (24.9 meters): Height

220: Number of windows

238 feet (72.72 meters): Length

261 feet (79.75 meters): Wing span

619 tons (562 tonnes): Weight

9,755 miles (15,700 km): Range

Sources: Korean Air, Airbus



In 2007, at the A380's American coming out party at New York's JFK airport, the plane was compared to a cruise liner in the sky.
But the A380's reputation hit a rough spot in 2011 when a taxiing Air France Superjumbo clipped a smaller plane at JFK so hard it turned it 45 degrees.
Clearly Boeing didn't think bigger is always better. In the 1990s Boeing briefly partnered with Airbus to collaborate on a new wide-body four-engine airliner before backing out.
Instead, Boeing chose to build on its previous success. The newest version of the 747 -- the 747-8 entered service in 2011 with room for 51 extra passengers than its previous version -- falls short of A380's capacity, although it is longer.
Boeing's new 747 warmed the hearts of countless aviation geeks who still crush on the plane's distinctive front bulge. And it's not just geeks who like it. A recent poll of 1,000 fliers by airfarewatchdog.com showed Boeing's 777 and 747 beating out the A380.
Both Boeing and Airbus have suffered through mechanical problems with new aircraft -- the A380 with wing cracks and the 787 Dreamliner with overheating batteries.
Six U.S. airports can land the A380
Nonetheless, after two years in business, Boeing's 747-8 has received more than 100 orders. Snyder points out that Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which seats up to 300 and has been in service for two years, has surpassed 900 orders. Compare that to the A380, which has been in service six years and has yet to crack 300.
So now Atlanta joins six other American cities where travelers can fly the A380: Miami, Houston, New York's JFK, Washington's Dulles, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Is the A380 opening new routes? Not really, says Snyder, although the Superjumbo has "enabled airlines like Emirates to put more seats on existing routes at a lower cost."
The 787, however, is opening new routes that traditionally haven't worked because of cost issues or range limits, he says, including United's from San Francisco to Chengdu, China. A Or British Airways' from Austin, Texas, to London.
In the end, which will dominate long-distance flight? Will we regularly soar above the clouds in four-engined, double-decker hotels? Or will travelers prefer single-floor planes with two engines and fewer perks?
For Ehm and his daughter as they come to the end of their trans-Pacific journey, that's not really at the top of their agenda. They're just glad to be home.




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