"A big fella and a beauty": historic first commercial flight of the A380
Singapore Airlines' A380 made its first commercial flight on 25 October, departing Singapore's Changi International Airport for Sydney at approximately 8:15 a.m. local time, with 455 passengers on board. Speaking ahead of its departure, Singapore Airlines' Chief Executive Chew Choon Seng, who was on hand to personally welcome passengers as they boarded, described the flight as "a new milestone in the timeline of aviation".
The majority of those on board flight SQ380 had bought their seats in a charity auction organised by airline on eBay, which raised around 1.3 million US dollars for selected Singaporean and Australian charities.
Passengers were given the red-carpet treatment from check-in onwards, served with champagne in all three classes and handed commemorative certificates and limited-edition goody bags in recognition of their contribution to the occasion. Singapore Airlines even ensured that the star chefs who had designed the menus for the flight were on hand to sign passengers' menus.
As soon as the "fasten seat belts" signs were switched off, passengers took the chance to explore both decks of the aircraft for themselves, as well as giving interviews to the TV and press crews on board. One described the flight as more akin to "a rock concert or movie premiere", where the stars of show were the A380 itself, Mr. Chew and Chief Pilot Robert Ting - who was making history as the first pilot to fly the A380 commercially.
Speaking to French newspaper Le Monde, passenger Philippe Ledrans who had travelled from France for the event, described himself as speechless at just how quiet the A380's cabin was, even during take-off and landing. "It went incredibly well and the aircraft is very comfortable and great for passengers," he said, adding that the atmosphere on board was very friendly, with everyone enjoying the shared sense of occasion.
Writing on the BBC News website, British passenger Laurence Watts commented: "I don't think anyone will be disappointed with the A380 and as a seasoned traveller, today's flight has put the excitement back into air travel for me."
Some seven hours after departure, flight SQ380 landed in Sydney, where Mr Chew told the waiting media the flight had been "a unique moment" for all those on board. He said that he had heard that Australian air traffic control had dubbed the aircraft "the big fella": "So, to borrow another of your Australian expressions, this aircraft has achieved the unique feat of being not just a 'big fella', but as you would say - a beauty too!"