Last Wednesday was both a happy and sad occasion at the headquarters of Airbus in Toulouse. The event was, in many ways, no different from any other aircraft delivery. However this was the first A380 to what is both the fifteenth and last new operator of the aircraft since the announcement of the cessation of production in 2021.
All Nippon Airways have ordered three of the aircraft to fly solely on the Tokyo Honolulu route with each painted in three colour versions of a special livery depicting a sea turtle.
Even though the aircraft was delivered on March 20, it will not enter service until May 24, followed by one more on July 1 with the final delivery expected in 2020. The aircraft will have a four class cabin (First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy) It will also feature a section in economy where seat rows can be used to provide lie flat seating. Named Couchii by the airline this concept was first introduced by Air New Zealand. This is particularly important as not only is it a busy route, it also has a high proportion of high yield passengers travelling on it.
The introduction of this aircraft will have a dramatic effect on the seat share on this most important route, the number one resort destination for Japanese travelers. Currently ANA have 15% of all available seats on the route, but once the third aircraft is introduced this will have risen to 25%.
The cabin reveal was scheduled for later in Japan and the airline were keeping all eyes away, so no view was had for the many media representatives present from around the world.
The event started with speeches from Tom Enders Airbus CEO, Chris Chollerton Rolls Royce President and guest of honour Shinya Katanozaka (President and CEO of ANA HOLDINGS INC.) Afterwards a scale model was signed by all three before being presented to ANA. Four drummers then took us to the unveiling of the aircraft and its unique livery.
Later on, on the stroke of the 16:30 departure time the aircraft taxied away from the iconic delivery centre stand at Toulouse Blagnac before taking off in front of hundreds if not thousands of people both at the delivery centre, on the ramp and on the surrounding roads and vantage points.
History will tell us if the A380 programme was a success or a failure, but I certainly feel it was and still is a game changing aircraft, loved by all that fly it, just not enough by those that have to payfor it. I think it might be loved by all at ANA, bringing both profit and comfort not to mention enormous interest from the Japanese and Hawaiian public.