Here's how the Airbus A380 changed the premium travel experience

Here's how the Airbus A380 changed the premium travel experience

It's now been a decade since Qantas picked up the keys to its first Airbus A380, and eleven years since Singapore Airlines made its inaugural superjumbo flight from Singapore to Sydney.

The sheer size of this airborne behemoth offered plenty of room for airlines to get creative, especially when it came to their highest-paying passengers.

While none fully embraced Airbus' original optimistic visions for the A380, which included first class lounges surrounded by private suites (above), most airlines flying the superjumbo found ways to raise the bar for premium travellers. 

Stylish suites

The original Singapore Airlines suites were a game-changer: first class passengers now had their own 'room' with sliding doors...

... and the ability to merge two adjacent suites into a shared suite with a double bed.

Ten years on, Singapore Airlines' second-generation A380 suites are even larger and more luxurious.

Emirates followed with similarly-private cabins...

... which will also become much larger and better-appointed when the Gulf carrier brings its new Boeing 777 suites to the A380 superjumbo from 2021.

Etihad revealed a spacious Apartment as its first class offering...

... while Qantas and Qatar Airways, among others, opted for a more open suite concept.

Of course, the honour of ‘most extravagant space on a commercial airline’ is undoubtedly held by Etihad’s The Residence – an opulent three-room suite featuring a living room, a bedroom with an actual double bed, and ensuite shower.

Sky-high showers

For many business travellers, the most important feature of a good airport lounge is the presence of roomy, well-stocked shower suites.

Emirates and later Etihad took the idea one step further, installing onboard shower spas for the first class passengers.

With five minutes of hot running water allocated, taking a shower at 35,000 feet meant hitting the ground refreshed and ready for business.

Lavish inflight lounges and bars

While by no means the exclusive domain of the Airbus A380, the sheer floorspace available made it possible to create sizeable communal areas for drinking and socialising were possible.

This includes the horseshoe-shaped cocktail bar at the rear of Emirates' A380 upper deck, recently updated along the lines of a stylish saloon...

... the cosy Lobby nook between the business and first class cabins of Etihad's A380...

... and the snaking lounge of Qatar Airways' superjumbo.

Korean Air managed to fit two lounges into its A380s: the first is towards the A380's nose...

... while at the back of the upper deck you'll find the more salubrious Celestial Bar featuring Absolut vodka cocktails.

Of course, Qantas is set to revamp its 12-strong Airbus A380 fleet with two new lounges, one at either side of the 'grand staircase' between the upper deck business class  and lower deck first class cabins.

Also read: Six reasons I'll use the new Qantas A380 inflight business lounges

Breezy boarding

Even with priority boarding lanes, you can end up wedged in a line if there’s just one or two doors to enter through.

However, most airlines flying the A380 let you step straight into the business class cabin on the upper deck. Emirates even offers direct boarding from the lounge to the plane in Dubai, Brisbane and Perth – an innovative concept that allows you to relax for longer and not have to run for the final call.

How has the Airbus A380 has changed your business travel experience?

Brandon Loo

Brandon Loo

Brandon divides his time between Perth and Launceston, with ample hours spent in airport lounges in between. He recently picked up photography and tries to capture the beauty of Tasmanian landscapes, aeroplane cabins and in-flight food, to varying degrees of success.


  • Ross


    19 Sep, 2018 12:35 am

    While I do like the A380, zone A on the 747 still holds a special place in my travel heart.
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  • Eli


    19 Sep, 2018 10:40 am

    Always!! Is a very special cabin
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  • Geoff Aire


    19 Sep, 2018 08:01 am

    Great ways to increase revenue 'though some airlines should improve economy too? 30"pitch for 12 hours or more is not healthy!
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  • Geoff Aire


    19 Sep, 2018 08:07 am

    Make that: 31"pitch is uncomfortable!
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  • Eli


    19 Sep, 2018 10:42 am

    I agree, its anti-humanity, No other way to put it.

    If JL can offer a decent/comfortable Y class seat, then everyone can. I once flew in Y on JL from SYD-NRT....we both were in shock, it felt more like a near-ISH (lol) J class of service/food, yes a Y seat, but even that was comfortable with great legroom. It can be done.

    Anti-humanity. Think on that, and ponder what that makes them ;-)
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  • elchriss0


    19 Sep, 2018 11:47 am

    I flew on a JAL 788 from MEL-NRT return in W and the same comment applies to that cabin. 42in pitch really makes a difference over 38in standard used by others. I had a look down the back and their 2-4-2 Y seating allows for 19in width paired with what I think is 34in pitch.
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  • sgb


    19 Sep, 2018 08:20 am

    It kept me loyal to Emirates as I love their A380 Business class product, just as their 777's were the ones to fly with prior to their A380 acquisitions.
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  • Brian Williams


    19 Sep, 2018 05:42 pm

    +1. In fact, my wife and I have made a pact that, as we head into an early retirement in a year or two, we will NEVER fly anything lower than J long haul, and always the A380 where possible. Sorry kids, but we're going to spend the 'inheritance' on ourselves.
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  • turbojezz


    19 Sep, 2018 08:41 am

    The A380 is by far the best plane in the sky and will be for a long time. I really do hope there is a turnaround one day and we see the neo fly.

    As a side note, what makes an Emirates shower a 'shower spa'???
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  • Peggy Hayes


    19 Sep, 2018 08:46 am

    Going from the Emirates lounge directly onto the air bridge for boarding was a big WOW factor for me.
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  • Lina Chan

    Lina Chan

    20 Sep, 2018 12:16 am

    If I remember correctly, TWA had lounges on wheels in the late 1970s and through the 80s. Not sure about the existence after that. TWA docked these mobile lounges to the aircraft allowing passengers to walk directly into the cabin. So cool!
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  • Sanjay Prakash


    19 Sep, 2018 09:25 am

    I still remember my first flight on SQ 9V-SKA which was the first A380 that went into service and launch aircraft. Was a great thrill. I definitely agree on the comment on boarding the Emirates aircraft direct from the lounge. Have not had the experience of flying first class which on the Big Bird would surely be an awesome experience.
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  • Adam T


    19 Sep, 2018 01:25 pm

    A380 on both SQ or QF definitely influences my choice of flight with both airlines, I just love the A380. This is based travelling in business class for company travel, paid by the company. Personal travel I will still try and choose the A380 and use QFF or Krisflyer to upgrade. Even in Y it's wonderful and spacious.
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  • grov


    19 Sep, 2018 02:37 pm

    The whole J experience is now magic and definitely worth paying for. From the direct lounge to aircraft boarding, the "have we taken off yet? smooth takeoff, the quiet cabin and its ability to " sit still" in the air, the on-demand meals, excellent seating, inflight bars, etc. So glad the airlines have put some effort into improving the J experience, especially with this great aircraft.
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  • Joe


    19 Sep, 2018 04:29 pm

    Worthy to note that Qantas A380 pics didn’t make the cut for this ABT’ article on the A380. Can Qantas cabin ‘designers’ be any more bland, boring and unsophisticated? Make an effort Mr Joyce. The aircraft itself is unrivalled as the best experience in the air-boarding a QF A38O in F or J is the most underwhelming A380 experience out there unfortunately.
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  • Ozshanel


    19 Sep, 2018 10:52 pm

    Interestingly, you have John Borghetti to thank for the current hard product on the Qantas A380.
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  • aggie57


    20 Sep, 2018 08:30 am

    But the bed.....oh, my the Qantas A380 1st class bed is THE reason to upgrade from business.
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  • Russjking


    19 Sep, 2018 05:41 pm

    In answer to the question 'has it made a difference to my travel!' The answer is yes!
    Quieter than the B777 and seemingly more spaceous.
    I chose the A380 every time and adjust travel arrangements to suit.
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  • Jason Hamilton


    19 Sep, 2018 06:47 pm

    Wow factor for all airlines pictured here with their A380 lounges other than QF - totally boring! Cafeteria like actually.
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  • Mark McCullough


    19 Sep, 2018 07:32 pm

    I love flying on the A380. Except, of course, flying backwards in a centre seat overnight on BA's sardine yin-yang layout. They binned the email about space and luxury.
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  • Alex_upgrade


    19 Sep, 2018 08:28 pm

    In fairness, Emirates started the enclosed suite on their A340s which predate the A380 and they were flying these to Oz and elsewhere before 2007. The size of the A380 was the impetus for other airlines (like SQ and later Etihad) to follow with their own enclosed suites (which Etihad also have on their 777s).

    The A380 is great but I dount it will take many more orders beyond Emirates. None of the US carriers are interested and if the global economy dips again they'll have problems filling them. That's why Turkish ordered the A350 and 787 as its growth aircraft. While size does matter - sometimes being big isn't always the best.

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  • Lina Chan

    Lina Chan

    20 Sep, 2018 12:08 am

    SQ had beds with sliding doors on their B747s from the 1970s and well into the late 1980s known as the Slumberettes. These were booked out more than 6 months in advance and jealously guarded by the 'owner'. The aircrafts were deployed on the Singapore London route and v.v. There was a lounge with a bar on the upper deck too. This was the true precursor to the Suites on the AB380.
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  • Geoff Aire


    20 Sep, 2018 01:46 am

    BA/IAG waiting to buy 8 more A380s, delayed by slow delivery of A320neos with engine problem.
    3xA320=A380 so a cash flow problem and IAG is rightly annoyed.
    BA can certainly use them, money making machines, lowest cost seats on longhaul and all the previous comments of customer satisfaction!
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  • aggie57


    20 Sep, 2018 08:36 am

    I must say we’re pretty spoilt having so many choices when it comes to A380 operators servicing Australia. Many of my US based friends and colleagues have never flown on one, even if they’re frequent flyers. Some haven’t even seen one but most Australian travelers will have been on them many times. I’ve long since lost count.

    It is my personal choice whenever I have the option. Great aircraft.
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  • Andrew


    25 Sep, 2018 03:18 am

    I have to agree, it's a great aircraft but I worry for its future. Alex_upgrade77 is right.

    I always fly Emirates in a mix of A380 andB777 to African destinations and whereas the F suites are identical (apart from the higher ceilings in the B777), the ride, the quietness and the amenities like the shower spa and the little first class bar make the A380 far more preferable
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17 Jul, 2019 09:04 pm


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