Heralding a new generation in passenger travel to the U.S., Emirates Airline’s first Airbus A380 arrived at New York’s JFK International Airport at approximately 4:40 p.m. on August 1, concluding the mega jetliner’s first commercial flight to the U.S.
Carrying 491 people, including two infants, the aircraft made the nonstop flight from Dubai in 13 hours and 20 minutes. “There have been many superlatives used about the arrival of this truly magnificent airplane,” said Timothy Clark, Emirates president. “We are particularly proud and delighted that it should be the first aircraft on the commercial service to the North American continent, America, and JFK in particular.”
It was an event long in coming as Emirates was scheduled to have received the airplane nearly two years ago. “Frankly, we expected delays with the aircraft,” said Keith Longstaff, Emirates’ senior vice president for worldwide commercial operations. “It’s a brand-new new-generation airframe and therefore we are delighted to have it.
It’s all water under the bridge now; there’s no point in talking about it. We’ve got [our] first one and we’re proud of it.”
The Middle Eastern carrier currently has another 57 A380s on order, four of which it expects to receive by year-end. Between its deliveries of the massive double-decker A380, Emirates will receive Boeing 777s, Airbus A330s and eventually the new A350–enough for the airline to welcome a new airplane to its fleet every three weeks for the next seven or eight years, according to Longstaff.
This first Emirates A380 was configured in the airline’s low-density, long-range configuration, with 14 first-class “suites,” 76 business class and 399 economy class seats. The carrier has also ordered versions that will carry 517 and 604 passengers.
Among the amenities on the first A380 is a pair of “shower-spas,” fully equipped bathrooms where first-class passengers can freshen up from the rigors of long-distance flight. “We decided to raise the bar in terms of premium cabin offerings, particularly in first class, and we wanted to create an environment which is essentially an executive jet environment for first-class passengers,” said Clark. “If you’ve been fortunate enough to have been on [an executive jet] you’ll find that things like big bathrooms and showers are part of that.” First- and business-class passengers also have onboard lounges for their benefit, and available to all seats is the ICE entertainment system which–according to Clark–could store every piece of music ever written, or thousands of movies.
The aircraft was formally handed over in Hamburg, Germany on July 28 in an elaborate ceremony attended by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Group chairman and CEO. Given the A380’s smooth introduction into service earlier this year with Singapore Airlines, Emirates officials claimed few worries over their own first flight. After its arrival in New York, the aircraft made a round trip to Dubai before heading out to the West Coast for a promotional visit (see accompanying article). On August 8 it began scheduled service between JFK and Dubai, making three round trips per week as part of the airline’s twice-daily service to New York.