SkyTeam member China Southern Airlines took delivery of its first Airbus A380 superjumbo in Tolouse, France in mid-October – adding it to service just four days later – becoming the seventh airlines in the world (and the third in SkyTeam) to operate the largest bird in the skies today. China Southern is the first operator of the A380 in the world, that deploys it on domestic routes.
The first Chinese owned double-decker airplane has 508 seats, that puts it in the middle of the field of airlines operating the super-jumbo. Interestingly, Korean Air has “only” 407 – the difference of 101 seats is about a regional jet’s capacity (!) – while Air France has 538 seats on the same size aircraft. The 58th A380 delivered by Airbus is the first to go to China, to the largest Asian airlines company. China Southern operates the largest Airbus flee in Asia with almost 200 European made planes as part of a fleet with a total of 422 aircraft, and has 4 more A380’s on order.
The world’s largest passenger jetliner at China Southern has 8 fully lie-flat reclining seats in “Platinum” suites (First Class), 70 in Business (1-2-1 layout) and 428 seats in Economy (3-4-3 layout). Passengers’ well–being will be enhanced through the onboard innovative mood lighting system including several different illumination scenarios to create a relaxing atmosphere and environment. The state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system makes it easy for passengers to select from a wide variety of audio and video programs and make their long-haul A380 trip something to remember. The cabin also offers seats and lavatories that are easily accessible to disabled passengers. The airplane is powered by 4 Rolls-Royce Trent-900 engines.
“We are proud to become the first A380 operator in China,” said CZ chairman Si Xianmin. “The introduction of the A380 in our fleet is a very important step for the development of China Southern. The economics offered by the A380 will undoubtedly improve our competitiveness on international routes and is the perfect asset to make China Southern Airlines achieve its goal of becoming a leading global carrier,” he said.
The aircraft type was first operated on the Beijing-Guangzhou route between 18-26 October, and on the Beijing-Shanghai Hongqiao route, between 27-29 October. China Southern plans to start using the A380 on international service as well, the first such route being the Guangzhou-Paris route. The launch date for this service has not yet been unveiled. The other existing A380 operators – Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, and Korean Air – only deploy the aircraft on international services. For 2012, A380 deliveries to Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways are on the list.
“Four years of operation show that airlines who fly the A380 increase capacity, gain market share and improve load factors – with an A380 now taking off or landing every 15 minutes,” explained Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders at the hand-over ceremony in Tolouse. To date, A380s have flown more than 350,000 hours and carried over 16 million passengers, while serving 25 major cities worldwide, including flights that link the Middle East and Europe to Beijing and Shanghai in China. Guangzhou will be a new A380 destination with the China Southern’s domestic service, though.