Western Canada’s first scheduled Airbus A380 service began on Sunday evening, with the arrival of British Airways flight BA85 at Vancouver International Airport. YVR is the airline’s only Canadian A380 destination, and is one of only nine city-pairs worldwide served by one of British Airways’ eleven megajets.
The A380 replaces British Airways’ daily London-YVR Boeing 747 service for the summer season. “This is a terrific market for us, it does tremendously well, so the A380 just perfectly suits the market” says Robert Antoniuk, British Airways VP Customer Service and Operations, North America West & Mexico. “This flight is absolutely full to capacity today.” The four-cabin A380 has a total of 469 seats, a significant jump from the 345-seat 747 it replaces.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the A380’s arrival, with clear skies and light winds. And to make sure that every AvGeek and plane-spotter had a chance to see and take shots of the plane’s approach and landing, YVR arranged for the A380 to land on the airport’s south runway. YVR’s Flight Path Park is right beside the approach lights on short final to Rwy 26L, and the airport set up extra bleachers in the South Terminal parking lot, right beside the airport’s mid-Rwy 08R/26L viewing platform.
Hundreds of people turned out to watch this once-in-a-lifetime event, and if social media is any indication, thousands and thousands of photos were taken of the A380’s approach and landing from all over the city. YVR’s social media team even handed out celebratory cupcakes to spectators, who came from as far away as Seattle.
The airport has been planning for the A380 since the plane was announced two decades ago. An Airbus flight-test A380 landed at YVR ten years ago, on a global route-proving flight, but Sunday’s BA flight marks the plane’s first scheduled service to Vancouver.
“We can actually take two A380s at once, and if more decided to fly, we would quickly get ready,” says Craig Richmond, CEO and President of the Vancouver Airport Authority. “The main thing is that the runways, the taxiways, and the aprons are built for the plane.” The passenger areas for YVR’s A380 gates are larger than normal, with huge windows giving great views of the ramp and Vancouver’s beautiful scenery.
And there’s a chance that plane-spotters in Vancouver could see additional A380 service – but from what airline? “I couldn’t tell you,” says Richmond. “There are a couple of candidates.”