British Airways A380: We jump on board to check it out

The moment you see the Airbus A380 you instantly wonder how on earth such a machine can fly through the sky with the speed that it does. It's huge. It's massive. It's gigantic.

The first airline in the UK to take delivery of the new double-decker aircraft - one of eight ordered for delivery over the next two years - will start flying to and from Los Angeles from 24 September and to Hong Kong from 22 October.

Pocket-lint was invited on board ahead of its inaugural  flight, and just a day after BA took delivery of it in the UK, to check out some of the innovations on board.

To give you some ideal of the enormity of the plane, the British Airways' A380 will accommodate 469 passengers across four cabins on two decks with a further private cabin on a third floor for cabin crew to sleep.

Technological marvels to be enjoyed by all are the promise of a quieter cabin (Airbus says that it is the quietest cabin of any commercial aircraft) and colourful mood lighting that British Airways has preset to suit different moments of the flight, like take-off or when food is being served.

During our tour, at the company's hangar at Heathrow, it was set to fairly standard every day setting, but you can see the potential this has to offer in trying to make the cabin a much more cosy environment.

On the entertainment front, BA's in-flight entertainment system now supports MPEG4 footage. That geeky titbit means that it can compress movies and TV shows even more than before, meaning it can get more content on the system from which you to chose. So much so that there will be over 1,600 hours of entertainnment available. Not bad for a 7 to 9 hour flight.

In real terms that's around 130 movies, 650 TV shows, 550 audio albums, and 225 radio shows. Failing that you'll also be able to talk to other passengers in the same way you can on Virgin Atlantic flights.

First class

Customers in First will be seated at the front of the main deck on the lower level. The cabin offers just 14 seats and is evolved from the current First class experience but with 30 per cent more space and 60 per cent more personal storage.

As you would expect with First, you get all the whistles and bells and each First seat is like an isolated cabin shut off from the hubbub around you. Even the seats are offset so you don't have to worry about catching someone's glancing stare.

BA has ditched the overhead lockers and opted instead to give everyone their own wardrobe and storage locker - it's almost like you've moved in.

But it's not just about improved storage: each seat gets a huge 15.4-inch touchscreen for watching entertainment on in addition to in-seat power, two USB sockets for charging personal devices and controls to turn your seat into a 6ft 6-inch flat bed.

First class passengers who get a window seat also get controls to close the blinds at the press of a button with two settings - a day blind that reduces glare while letting in light and a complete blackout option. Better still, the windows have been moved so they are within your seating area rather than ambiguously between two seats. Is it your window or mine?

And all that's before you start talking about the service levels First brings with it: Champagne suppers, fine dining and much more.

Club World

There are two Club World (Business) cabins on the aircraft, a bright and spacious cabin on the main deck and a smaller more intimate one on the upper deck, although nipping between the two is out of the question during the flight.

The bottom deck, which BA told Pocket-lint is seen more of a party deck, has a seat configuration of 2:4:2 compared to a 2:3:2 seat configuration upstairs. Big overhead lockers aside, it has higher ceilings than upstairs and that makes it feel a lot more airy.

Sporting new coloured seats, its configuration is BA's standard arrangement of passengers facing each other. That's great if you are flying together so you can chat easily, but still awkward if you are having to look at a complete stranger.

BA Business travellers will know all to well that uncomfortable moment where you have to pluck up enough courage to press the button on top of the privacy barrier to raise it to solve that problem. Now BA has added a button at seat height so you can play dumb as the divider starts rising, as if by magic.

On the upper deck the feeling is a lot more compact, as you lose one of the seats, and more akin to a traditional aircraft like the Boeing 747.

The seats to get here, if you are after storage, are the window seats as they give access to a side locker for laptops, magazines and other things you want to hand. For those who want space and privacy the Window seats will be the ones to try to nab early.

On the entertainment front you get a 12.1-inch screen, noise-cancelling headphones (the noise cancelling bit is in the console not the headphone, interestingly), two USB sockets, power, and a Video RCA connection for your camcorder, DVD player or camera.

World Traveller Plus

Here there are 55 seats all on the upper deck, making it a fairly small cabin. Like the Club seats on the plane, British Airways has worked hard to improve the seating for World Traveller Plus flyers, and for frequent flyers keen to know this stuff, they are the same seats as found on the 777-300 ER aircraft and the 787 Dreamliner.

That means an experience more akin to Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy rather than an economy seat with a bit more space. You now get to see and tell the difference.

In real terms you get 20 per cent more legroom than World Traveller, with footrest, increased recline position, hammock headrest and cocktail table.

Again, the window seats benefit from the extra storage that runs down the sides of the aircraft.

Entertainment is shown on a still large 10.6-inch in-flight entertainment touchscreen and you get noise-cancelling headphones to listen to it all. The seat also comes with power for a laptop and two USB sockets.

World Traveller

There are 303 seats in total, with 199 on the main deck and 104 on the upper deck. The economy cabin is where the most passengers are on the BA A380 and BA has tried to break down the cabin sides to reduce the feeling of being on such a massive airplane.

On the main deck it’s a 3:4:3 seating configuration, while upstairs is 2:4:2 and that makes a huge difference to the feeling you get sitting down.

Like the World Traveller Plus cabin, the seat has been taken from the 777-300 ER and 787 Dreamliner aircraft and that gives you a better, more comfortable seat than on BA's older planes.

You'll get an 8.9-inch screen on which to watch movies and - welcomed by many - power for charging gadgets, and a USB socket to playback your own shows on the screen in the back of the seat in front of you.

Upper-deck window passengers get extra storage, but with so many people on board it's worth noting that disembarking times and the subsequent passport control lines are going to be horrid if you are at the back of the bus.

Downstairs on the main deck the seat to get is 25D. Although it is in the middle of the cabin it doesn't have a seat in front of it so you get double the leg room. The seat as been removed to allow for the emergency exit hatch for the cabin crew sleeping quarters that sleeps 10, down below. 



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