Sunday, September 28, 2008

Crossing the Atlantic

It’s been almost six hundred years since people have been crossing the Atlantic. I crossed it the first time almost 25 years ago myself, and since then have been doing it almost half a dozen times every year for a while now, but no experience has been even remotely similar to the one I’m having right now, in fact I write and publish these words while I am on the Atlantic. A number of reasons why this is so unique:

1. I am riding an A380. While the world has been awaiting the launch of the next generation of commercial aircrafts for half a decade now, and we the members of the business fraternity who subscribe to the fortunes and the economists of this world, have been following the Boeing versus Airbus story with avid interest not in my wildest dreams had I thought that this experience would be so unique.

2. For once, they actually modified the Dubai airport where I got on to the A380 from (and the Chiang Mai at Singapore) to accommodate the next generation of the aircrafts.

3. There are two levels of ducts that you board the airplane from. When the lady at the check in counter handed me my boarding card, I glimpsed at it, and the first thing that really looked odd to me was the seat number, you see not in the last 30 years have I seen a seat number that reads 87k, I had just landed in Dubai a few days ago on Boeing 777 at a seat that was literally at the far end of the craft with a number in the late 40s or something. This possibly couldn’t have been twice as long a carrier could it have been.

4. The bathrooms are done with an aesthetic sense that is the hallmark of a European product. The overall finish of the walkways, the entertainment system, flight navigation animations with 3-D effects was…well…at the very least with an air of freshness about it.

5. The crew was wearing uniforms that were probably redone with the aptitude to welcome the A380 to Emirates.

6. The best thing about the A380 is the take-off and landing experience, it is exquisitely smooth and silent.

Having said all of that, remember when Boeing would keep on saying that the world was not really ready for an A380, well I couldn’t help but feel that they were right. Half the seats in the plane were empty. There was this talk of handling the passenger traffic at the airport, and how the airports were not ready for it, well unfortunately the plane was empty. The very large airliner (VLA) concept was launched to increase the per seat yield of end to end destination operators, as opposed to low cost hub and spoke carriers.

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