SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT -- Though Emirates has been flying between San Francisco and Dubai since 2008, on Monday the airline switched its daily service from the Boeing 777 to the largest passenger aircraft in flight, the Airbus A380. The addition of more than 100 seats on the route reflects the powerful airline's confidence that it can fill them. In addition to being a growing tourist and business destination in its own right, Dubai also is a major transfer point for connecting flights to Africa, India and South Asia.
Shortly after it arrives from its 15-hour flight from Dubai, the A380 rests at Gate A9 at the International Terminal. This aircraft is one of 51 A380s in the Emirates fleet. Each one costs more than $300 million (£192 million, AU$354 million).
Hours before boarding, the check-in area is empty. Banners throughout the terminal highlighted the new aircraft. San Francisco is the fourth Emirates A380 destination in the United States and the 32nd such destination worldwide.
Three jet bridges service the A380. Two, including the one seen here, access the bottom deck, while the third connects straight to the upper deck. After walking inside this door, the cockpit is accessible via short stairway to the left. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed inside as the flight crew was preparing for departure. It takes just two people to fly the gigantic airliner, though a relief crew travels on ultralong flights.
The economy class section takes up the entire lower deck. The 399 seats
are arranged in a 10-abreast configuration, which is the same as a
The high ceiling, wide cabin and muted colors help
alleviate the usual crowded feel of cattle class. Each seat has electrical outlets and a 12.1-inch
personal video screen for on-demand entertainment programming, video games and
music. Inflight Wi-Fi and SMS texting are available in all classes.
Of course, the ultimate in luxury and bling is the private suites in first class. Each suite has a sliding door for privacy, a lie-flat bed, a personal minibar and plentiful snacks, a vanity table and mirror, a wardrobe and a 27-inch video screen.
The two shower suites at the front end of the upper deck are bigger than the bathroom in my first San Francisco apartment. Inside you'll find a heated floor, an large sink, a counter for your personal effects and lotions and bath gels for days.
The shower itself is larger than I thought even if I wasn't able to look
inside. You get 5 minutes of water time, but you can pause the flow
while you lather up. You book shower appointments in 25-minute blocks at
the start of the flight, which gives the cabin crew time to clean the
shower for the next passenger. It's a bit much, yes, but I'd still love to try it.