Last Friday marked the first time that an Airbus A380 has landed at Miami International Airport (MIA). This was the first Lufthansa Airlines flight from Frankfurt (FRA) to Miami operated by the double-decker Airbus A380.
Miami becomes the third US destination that Lufthansa flies the A380 and the sixth destination internationally. Although the airline has gained experience flying the seven Airbus A380s in their fleet, this was the first time any A380 has landed at Miami.
“We are extremely excited to introduce our new, flagship A380 aircraft as the very first in the Miami market,” said Jens Bischof, Member of the Lufthansa German Airlines Board, Sales and Revenue Management. “I applaud Miami International Airport’s management team for their determination to become A380-ready. We share in their excitement and are both committed to Miami’s community of global travelers in both the business and leisure markets.”
I had the opportunity to fly on the upper-deck of the large aircraft, which houses eight first class and 98 business class (where I was sitting) seats. The lower deck contains only economy seats — 420 to be exact. When arriving at the airport I already had my boarding pass and no baggage to check and having a business class ticket allowed me to take the VIP line at security — which did not matter too much since traffic was a bit slow.
When stepping up to security I realized I didn’t know Germany’s rules. Did I have to take out my laptop? Toothpaste? How about body scanners? Things were much different than here in the US –talk about service.
There was a security agent where you unload your stuff and they didn’t assume I knew what to do. They smiled as they let me know I needed to take out my laptop and all metal from my body. I didn’t have to take off my shoes or remove my toothpaste. After going through the metal detector, there was another friendly agent to help me get my stuff and I actually had room and time to gather my things. A far cry from going through security in Seattle.
At the gate, there is a business class lounge located upstairs where one can relax, get a drink and a bite to eat. Before boarding there were folks from the airline that gave a speech with the three pilots and head flight attendant looking on. We were able to board from the lounge and take an upper jetway directly onto the top deck.
Having the entire upper-deck as business class has its pluses and minuses. Even though there are quite a few actual and “fake” bulk-heads (fabric giving the feeling to sections) in the aircraft, there are still 98 of the same seats up top. This does take away a bit of the exclusive feel that flying in a premium seat normally has. However, if you are able to swing a first class ticket, there are only eight of those seats and definitely feels exclusive.
The business class product on the A380 is very similar to the product found on other aircraft with a few changes. There is a new universal outlet and an updated entertainment system with more content, which is good since I watched a good number of movies flying over on my Seattle to Frankfurt flight just 24 hours prior. Even with the updates, I was kind of hoping for a few more movie choices.
The best change is the ability to view one of three cameras located on the A380: on the tail, on the nose looking down and another looking straight. Of course, nothing beats seeing what is in front of the aircraft directly from the cockpit.
A few of us were invited to take a tour of the flight deck while we were over the Atlantic Ocean. I have been in cockpits during flights before, but never allowed to take photos — bonus. The five of us were easily able to fit in the flight deck and what an amazing view — inside and out. For some reason, seeing the vast blue sky and clouds looked so much better from the cockpit windscreen versus a side window.
The process of getting to the flight deck was a bit of an eye opener. I was sitting near the front of the upper deck, but we had to go to the back of the plane to use the rear stairs and then walk the length of the aircraft on the bottom deck. I have been on an empty A380 and it just doesn’t feel the same when every economy seat is taken. It felt like we had to walk a mile and through hundreds of people (420 to be exact) before getting to the cockpit. That was a heck of a lot of people and I was happy to return to the upper deck when the tour was complete.
I have been hearing how quiet the plane is during take off, but I kind of brushed it off as PR-talk. Since this was my first time taking a flight in one, I paid extra attention when we took off. I was genuinely shocked at how quiet the plane was at full throttle taking off from Frankfurt with a full load. It took us a good chunk of the runway to finally rotate, but it didn’t even sound like the engines were at full throttle — impressive.
The trip to Germany and the flight back were great experiences, but the landing easily trumped them of both. We touched down in Miami to hundreds of people lined up along the airport and freeway to greet the plane. I had never seen so many people line up to greet a plane like that before. This wasn’t just one group of people, but hundreds lining the length of the runway to catch a glimpse of our Airbus A380 landing — it was surreal.
I feel that Miami has a unique love affair with aviation. Eastern Air Lines used to be based in Miami and so many people are still very proud of the airline and the influence it had on aviation. Miami International Airport is proud to be one of very few airports to host the Airbus A380.
“Today is one of the proudest days in the history of MIA and Miami-Dade County,” said Miami-Dade Aviation Director Jose Abreu. “Lufthansa’s A380 service elevates MIA into an elite class of airports worldwide that are capable of receiving this groundbreaking aircraft. We congratulate Lufthansa and deeply appreciate them for helping us reach another historic milestone.”
The A380 is one large plane that is able to carry one heck of a lot of people. It provides better economics per passenger compared to other aircraft (when nearly full) and is amazing to see in person with its double decks. I still do not think the A380 is as majestic as the Boeing 747, but it does its job and does it well. It has a beauty all of its own that truly is hard to compare to other aircraft. This might have been my first A380 flight, but I doubt my last.
More Good Airbus A380 Stuff:
* All 42 photos from the first MIA-FRA A380 flight
* Local Miami channel 10 was on the flight and did a great piece