As I stood on the tarmac at George Bush Intercontinental Airport awaiting the arrival of the Emirates A380, a colleague wondered if we'd be able to pick the plane out of the pack as it landed on the busy runway. Turns out, it wasn’t tough to spot at all.
The colossal double-decker jetliner, with a $400 million price tag, is a standout.
At the invitation of Emirates, I had the opportunity to attend a preview tour of the mega-star of its fleet Wednesday.
Although the airline has offered direct daily service from Houston to the world’s busiest hub, Dubai International Airport (departing Houston at 6:25 p.m. and landing in Dubai at 7:05 p.m. the next day; departing Dubai at 9:30 a.m. and arriving in Houston at 4:05 p.m.) since 2007, the route gets an upgrade as Emirates’ fifth U.S. gateway to be serviced by the industry's largest passenger aircraft — a tribute to Houston’s solid economy, high employment growth rate and illustrious oil and gas market.
“The arrival of this aircraft is a testament to the strength of Emirates’ route between Houston and Dubai. Travel between Houston and the Middle East has more than doubled within the past five years alone, and Emirates has placed itself in excellent position to capitalize on this dynamic area of growth,” Houston aviation director Mario C. Diaz says.
Reporters got a chance to tour the plane from top to stern and it's pretty incredible. Here are five things that I noticed:
1. There's no need to fight for a seat
The spacious 6,000 square-foot interior offers 491 seats. Most — 401 — are economy seats on the first floor, with 14 first class private suites and 76 business class lie-flat beds upstairs.
2. A first class like no other
If you have the means, travel like a rock star in a first class private suite, which will run you a whopping $18,000. The private suite is the size of a small work cubicle with lie-flat seats and sliding doors for complete privacy, providing an easy way to join the mile high club. And what's really cool is the access to two on-board showers.
Other perks include a vanity table, personal mini-bar, desk, 23-inch TV screen and delicacies prepared by five-star chefs.
3. If you can't go first, business will do
The cushy business class section is bigger and better than most I've seen, with a large-screen personal entertainment system, built-in mini-bar and flat-bed seat for each traveler.
4. It's business in front, party in the back
The ritzy Onboard Lounge, located in the rear of the upper-deck cabin, is available to all first and business class customers. Mingle at a stand-up bar and imbibe premium drinks (think: Dom Perignon and Cakebread chardonnay).
5. Economy class takes up a lot of space
The economy section takes up the entire lower section of the aircraft. Alas, it offers only about the same leg room as most transcontinental flights. There is a good in-flight video-and-audio system with more than 1,500 channels and 13-inch seatback monitors. Wi-Fi is available throughout the aircraft.
Watch a video about the new plane: