‘It felt less like being in a plane than in a strange kind of conference centre’
The first thing you noticed was the silence. Even sitting by the engines at takeoff, you didn’t need to raise your voice on the A380 superjumbo. The quiet was almost eerie.
It was a monstrous double-decker so big it felt like travelling in two planes stuck on top of one other. It was a kind of cruise ship of the skies with staircases, bars and private first-class cabins, spilling out a wave passengers when it landed at airports. And yet, when you were onboard, it somehow managed to feel delicate.
When I took the first public flight on the Airbus A380 in Toulouse in 2007, I remember staring out of the window over the Pyrenees, thinking something was odd. It was the lighting. It felt less like being in a plane than in a strange kind of conference centre. The windows were bigger, letting in more natural light, and there were special light systems to alter cabin mood.
For that two-hour flight over south-west France – the first time the media had been able to film inside the most complex passenger plane ever built – I watched company bosses and journalists stretching their legs by nipping up and down the staircases linking the two decks than ran the entire length of the plane. Flight attendants said they were glad to have larger floor space in which to work. There was more height above your head and it felt airy.
It was also smooth. Air turbulence and movement didn’t seem to register. It almost felt as if you were standing on solid ground while being in the air. In surveys, passengers would later approve of it, praising its quiet, comfort and spaciousness.