With a range of 9,600 miles, a cruising speed of 560 miles per hour, 240 feet in length, 80 feet tall, a wingspan of over 260 feet, and over 5,000 square feet of floor space spread out over two full decks, the Airbus A380 is the largest jumbo-jet in the skies, and an aviation enthusiast’s dream. Here are the top 10 ways you can fly on this queen of the skies using your hard earned miles and points.
Note: Route maps and effective dates are subject to change, so please feel free to comment with any confirmed updates to the information below.
1. Emirates: Perhaps the most sought-after experience in the skies is Emirates’ A380 first class service with deluxe “suites,” gourmet meal service and even in-flight showers available. Of course, on the long-haul routes, that ticket will cost you well north of $10,000, but Emirates operates the aircraft on a few little-known short-haul routes in its network as well. You can find the full schedule here, but your best bets will be the Auckland-Sydney route, which is still long enough to take that shower. It costs about $1,300 each way in first class, or 47,500 Skywards Miles. A new Auckland-Melbourne route is also scheduled to begin in October, and the flight that operates Hong Kong-Dubai actually stops in Bangkok. That last flight is just under 3 hours and costs 60,000 Skywards miles each way for first class, or just $650! Miles-wise, you will be able to use Alaska Airlines miles at some point later in 2012. Korean Air is also a partner of Emirates and a 1:1 transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, the points program of the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cards.
2. Singapore Airlines: Singapore was the first airline to take delivery of the new superjumbo back in October of 2007. These days, it operates 18 of the 19 it has ordered so far on its New York JFK-Frankfurt-Singapore route as well as the route from Singapore-Tokyo Narita-Los Angeles, so unfortunately and there’s no really cheap option if you want to test out the airline’s ballyhooed first class suites on this particular plane because Sinagpore doesn’t release them as saver level awards and charges upwards of 1,000,000 KrisFlyer miles for the “suites” class. They do change the routes that the 380 serves, so you can try booking awards on other routes and hope for an equipment swap, but in general Singapore makes it extremely difficult to book business and first class awards on the 380.
3. Qantas: The Australian carrier has ordered 20 A380’s and so far operates 12 of them on its transpacific routes between Sydney and Melbourne and Los Angeles, as well as from Sydney to Hong Kong, and from Sydney and Melbourne to London via Singapore. Even the shortest of those routes (Singapore and Hong Kong) will cost you 30,000 points each way for economy, 45,000 for Premium Economy, 60,000 for Business and a whopping 90,000 points for first class, and each way from Sydney to Singapore would cost between $877 for economy and nearly $7,000 in first.
4. Lufthansa: This German-based airline operates the A380 from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, New York, San Francisco and now Houston, giving US-based flyers plenty of opportunities to catch a ride on the big bird. Again, there aren’t any secret backdoor short-hauls to take advantage of here, but you can get from North America to Frankfurt on it for just shy of $1,000 roundtrip, or as low as 30,000 miles plus $77.50 in economy, 50,000 miles and $77.50 in business and 67,500 miles plus $80 in first class, which I personally just experienced aboard the 747, each way. I flew the A380 business class last year and was underwhelmed since they kept their old product, but will be refurbishing them over the next couple years.
5. Korean Air: This SkyTeam carrier has ordered a total of 10 A380’s with just 5 in service so far. It’s known for having the most spacious A380’s in the industry with just over 400 seats in each, well below the industry standard. You can use both Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Delta SkyMiles to book flights on one of them, and you don’t even have to fly on the airline’s longer routes between Korea and Paris or Los Angeles to experience it. Instead, book a short-hop flight from Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon – about 3.5 hours – and experience the superliner service with the airline’s latest seats for about $275 each way in economy, or 30,000 of Korean Air’s Skypass miles each way in economy up to 65,000 miles each way in first using SkyPass miles (Delta does not allow international first class redemptions), though availability is extremely limited. If you were to use Delta SkyMiles instead, you’d be getting a relative bargain since the airline counts both South Korea and Hong Kong in its Northern Asia zone, so a roundtrip economy ticket could be as low as 25,000 miles, and a business class ticket would be as low as 45,000 miles roundtrip.
6. China Southern: This Chinese airline based in Guangzhou has three A380’s in service with a total of five on order. The airline is pondering putting the craft into service on it’s “Canton Route” from London to Sydney via Guangzhou, but you can take it on a shorter three-hour flight between Beijing and Guangzhou for about $290 in economy each way. The airline is also a member of SkyTeam, meaning you could use Delta miles, or even Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Korean Air to fly it, and again since this flight is within a single zone, you could redeem miles for a roundtrip economy ticket for as low as 25,000 miles, and a business class ticket would be as low as 45,000 miles roundtrip.
7. Air France: No short-haul routes on this carrier, though for a brief time, Air France did fly its biggest aircraft on the busy route between Paris and London. Now you can catch it from France to New York, Johannesburg, Montreal, Washington DC, Singapore, Los Angeles and Tokyo. Since Air France is a part of SkyTeam, one way around steep ticket prices to Europe would be to use Delta SkyMiles (60,000 roundtrip economy, 100,000 roundtrip business) to fly the airline.
8. Malaysia Air: Malaysia’s carrier has ordered six A380’s and already has two in service flying three times weekly between Kuala Lumpur and London. Starting November 25, it will put more into use daily from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney. Though you might have a hard time snagging one of the 8 first class suites – with 40-inch-wide beds and 23-inch flatscreen entertainment systems – but business class looks quite nice too. The airline is supposed to join the Oneworld alliance later this year, which will mean you can use your American or British Airways miles (among others) to fly it. After all, how can you resist an airline so excited about its new aircraft that its website says, “Finally, a plane as big as our hearts”? Malaysia is a partner of Delta as well, though you can’t redeem for first class and Delta assess fuel surcharges to awards.
9. Thai Airways: This Bangkok-based Star Alliance airline will take delivery of its first A380 (out of a total of six) on September 27, with plans to put it into service later in October. The airline plans to put the new planes into service on its routes from Bangkok to Hong Kong, Singapore, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Paris first. From October 28-December 14 the airline will use its first A380 on daily flights between Hong Kong and Bangkok and then will move it over to service its Bangkok-Frankfurt route. Following that will be flight service to Tokyo and Paris early in 2013. Each new plane will have 507 seats with three classes. The Royal First Class cabin will have just 12 seats and will include a dressing room, a bar and a small lounge. Each seat will be fully lie-flat with 83 inches in pitch. The business class Royal Silk cabin will have 60 seats, also with fully horizontal beds and 73 inches in pitch. If you do want to be one of the first to fly the airline’s new plane on the BKK-HKG route, it’ll cost you about $400 roundtrip.
However, if you used United miles (which you can also transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards), you could fly the A380 for 12,500 miles plus $22.40 one-way in economy, 17,500 miles and $22.40 in business, or 30,000 and $22.40 in first class!
10. British Airways: Though the UK’s main carrier has had A380′s on order for years, its delivery has been pushed back until late in 2013 to the chagrin of both Brits and those of us who have been hoarding Avios in anticipation of the airline’s new planes. BA has a total of 12 A380′s on order, and though routes are yet to be announced, it’s a pretty sure thing that at least some of them will fly from London to New York, Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore, with the Singapore craft possibly continuing on to Sydney. I love BA’s latest first and business class products, so hopefully the A380 will represent yet another evolution in one of the best in-flight products in the sky.
Don’t have an opportunity to fly the A380 yet? Stay tuned, because several other airlines including Asiana, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic have ordered them as well.