How The Airbus A380 Was A Gamechanger For First Class Suites

While an unmistakable aircraft, the Airbus A380 hasn’t resulted in the commercial success that its manufacturer might have hoped for. An exciting prospect at the time of its launch, the superjumbo has become rather obsolete owing to industry trends and the pandemic. However, it was still a ground-breaking aircraft as far as first class was concerned.

Etihad Airways, Airbus A380, Return
Etihad used the space on its A380s to great effect for first class. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Size matters

When it comes to long-haul aircraft, smaller, twin-engine examples tend not to offer first class. Of course, there are exceptions, like Air France’s exclusive four-suite La Première cabin on certain Boeing 777-300ERs. However, for the most part, a class of travel above business class is typically the domain of four-engined aircraft like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380.

However, of these two double-decker quadjets, the A380 was the more ground-breaking in terms of what it offered first class passengers. While the 747 is a sizeable aircraft, operators often place first class in its nose cabin. This exclusive area offers privacy and tranquility but narrows more as you go further towards the front of the plane.

Emirates A380 First Class
Emirates’ three-class A380s have 14 first class suites on the upper deck. Photo: Emirates

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However, the A380 doesn’t have this problem. A key factor in this is the fact that its nose is home to the aircraft’s cockpit, meaning that the narrowest part of the aircraft isn’t used to seat passengers. It also boasts a lower-deck cabin width than the 747, at 6.5 meters compared to 6.1. Even the upper deck still measures an impressive 5.8 meters wide.

Double-decker luxury

This extra width allows operators more space to play with when it comes to creating a luxurious first class experience. As seen above, Emirates has made use of it to fit its first class suites with thick and ornate walls to provide elegant privacy, where passengers can “slide the doors closed, turn down the ambient lighting and retreat in your private cinema.”

Singapore Airlines A380 Suite
Singapore Airlines’ A380s feature either six or 12 first class suites. Photo: Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines even offers passengers in the center of the 1-2-1 configured first class cabin to combine their suites to create a double room. The carrier explains that “in our Double Suites, the center divider between rooms makes way for a luxurious double bed.” This is, once again, an example of how the A380’s size is conducive to a more luxurious experience.

Perhaps the most famous A380 first class product in the skies belonged to Etihad. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s superjumbos feature nine first class ‘Apartment’ suites on the upper deck. These opulent suites feature not just a flatbed but also a separate recliner seat, suiting every need. Most unforgettable is, of course, the three-room ‘Residence’ suite. Made for two people, this private palace in the sky features a bathroom, bedroom, and living area.

Singapore Airlines, Airbus A380, Scrapped
Could the demise of the A380 see first class go for good? Photo: Getty Images

An uncertain outlook

The Airbus A380 had been among the hardest hir aircraft since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With its additional capacity now surplus to requirements amid lower demand, several operators have stored or even retired the type. As Simple Flying reported last June, the grounding of the type saw worldwide first class availability plummet.

This begs the question as to whether large, luxurious first class suites will even exist in a post-A380 and 747 world. One carrier where the superjumbo is set to stick around is Emirates, which is also the type’s largest operator. Delays to the deliveries of the Boeing 777X are a key factor in Emirates’ retention of the A380, which looks set to fly until the mid-2030s.

Have you ever flown in a first class suite onboard an Airbus A380? If so, with which airline(s)? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!