The Airbus A380 is the world’s largest passenger airliner. First flown in April 2005, it entered service with Singapore Airlines in October 2007. Since then over 200 are in service with some of the world’s most prestigious airlines including Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa and Korean Air. By far the largest customer though has been Emirates. The Dubai-based carrier with over 100 aircraft in service and 50 more on order.
Rolls-Royce and General Electric compete to provide the four huge powerplants for each Airbus A380 with sales roughly even between them.
Popular with airlines and passengers alike, the Airbus A380 has over 550 square metres (5,920 sq ft) of floor space allowing great flexibility for airlines. Although certified to carry up to 853 passengers in all-economy mode all current operators of the Airbus A380 use a multi-class cabin including lie-flat beds in business class and luxury suites in first class.
LAUNCH CUSTOMER – SINGAPORE AIRLINES
Singapore Airlines operated the first commercial Airbus A380 flight on 25 October 2007 from Singapore to Sydney. Famed for its premium service, Singapore Airlines’ “Suites” are exclusively available to first class passengers on its A380. The airline has 19 aircraft in its fleet with newer aircraft having a capacity of 471 passengers.
Singapore Airlines livery, incorporating its famous Silver Kris bird in gold on a dark blue tail fin has always looked smart and is no less so in scale model form.
LARGEST CUSTOMER – EMIRATES
Emirates is the world’s fourth largest airline and the largest customer for the Airbus A380. Its fleet can be seen in airports across the world and Emirates is often the only long-haul operator into key regional destinations. Cities as diverse as Birmingham, Athens and Perth have Emirates as the only operator of the Airbus A380 to their airports.
Emirates has a flowing flag in the national colours of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on its tail fin and a large gold ‘Emirates’ painted along the fuselage. Models of the Emirates Airbus A380 are available in a wide range of scales and materials as will as in plastic kit form.
Tang Dynasty 1:400 Emirates Airbus A380 model
AUSTRALIAN OPERATOR – QANTAS
Qantas, Australia’s premier airline boasts continuous service since 1920. It operates 12 Airbus A380 with a further 8 on order. Its fleet of the double-deck widebody is named after Australian aviation pioneers including Nancy-Bird Walton and Charles Kingsford Smith. The airline’s Airbus A380 operation came to international attention in November 2010 when one aircraft suffered an uncontained engine failure and made a safe emergency landing at Singapore Changi airport.
The Flying Kangaroo has been Qantas’ symbol since 1947 and the large tail fin of the Airbus A380 carries the latest red-and-white version of the famous logo. A wide range of available models includes a high quality 1:400 scale model from Gemini Jets.
FLYING THE FLAG – BRITISH AIRWAYS
British Airways took delivery of its first Airbus A380 in July 2013, nearly six years after its initial entry into commercial service. BA now operates 12 of the type with a seating capacity of 469 across four classes. Operating to cities as far apart as Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Johannesburg, some are surprised that BA’s Airbus A380 doesn’t operate on its busiest route from London Heathrow to New York JFK. The airline operates from its own terminal at JFK, Terminal 7. Designed in the 1960s, the Airbus A380 simply won’t fit on the gates there. BA is keeping its elderly Boeing 747-400s in service until at least 2024.
BA’s current livery dates back to the mid 1990s. Like many airlines it is primarily white. A flowing design based on a section of the British Union Jack flag adorns the tail fin with the fuselage and engine nacelles painted in dark blue. Models of British Airways’ Airbus A380 are available in many sizes and designs including plastic self-assembly kits from Revell.
EUROPEAN OPERATORS – AIR FRANCE AND LUFTHANSA
With the Airbus A380 being assembled in France at Toulouse, you might have expected Air France to be an early operator of the widebody. However, it did not enter service with them until November 2009. Currently with a fleet of 10, Air France is actually reducing its fleet to just five aircraft by the end of 2020. Those remaining in the fleet will be refurbished. All aircraft are fitted with Air France’s prestigious La Premiere first class cabin.
Lufthansa is one of only two airlines to operate both the Airbus A380 and its rival Boeing 747-8i. Based at its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich, Lufthansa operates 14 of the type across its long-haul network. The airline introduced a new livery in 2018 to mixed reviews. Gone is the gold crane on the tail, replaced with an outline of the same logo on a darker blue fin.
Airbus A380 models for both these mainland European carriers are widely available.