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It used to be, to fly Singapore Airlines’ famous first-class suites on the A380, you had to, well, fly Singapore Airlines. But now, charter operator HiFly has bought some of the giant Airbus jets secondhand, keeping the Singapore interior — and offered them to other airlines for lease. Which is why you now have the chance to fly one of the best seats in the sky for the price of a premium ticket on Norwegian Air.
Norwegian has contracted HiFly to use its A380 across the Atlantic, covering for Norwegian’s own Boeing 787s, which are in the shop to fix engine problems.
A Norwegian spokesperson confirmed to TPG that the low-cost carrier will “most likely” begin operating the superjumbo beginning Friday, August 3, from New York (JFK) to London (LGW). Norwegian will operate the Hi Fly A380 on that JFK-LGW route daily through August 23.
While exact flight numbers and flight times are still being worked on, the Norwegian spokesperson said that this will likely be the red-eye flight. Based on Norwegian’s current schedule, that likely means the biggest passenger jet in the world will operate as Norwegian flight 7016, which departs JFK at 11:00pm and arrives at LGW at 11:00am the next day.
As of time of publication, the seat map has yet to be loaded on Norwegian’s site, displaying the A380 as operating the route. In fact, the site is still showing the flight as being sold out with no operating aircraft identified.
At this point, we also know of the upgrade process — and it’s pretty unconventional. Instead of being able to book a suites seat outright, Premium passengers will be randomly assigned a premium seat — either suites or the lie-flat business-class product. The seat map that will eventually load on Norwegian’s website will not display the suites cabin, rendering it impossible to book a suites seat even if you want to. Existing ticketed Premium passengers will be randomly placed in one of the 72 premium seats (either one of the 12 suites or one of the 60 lie-flat biz seats). The Norwegian spokesperson said that Premium passengers will not be able to buy up to suites.
As a result of the maps not yet being uploaded, it remains unclear how the pricing structure will look. Even more interesting, the A380 will offer a total of 72 premium seats (12 suites and 60 lie-flat business class), which is a huge increase on the 32 to 35 seats the premium section on the Norwegian 787s currently offers.
Norwegian has been plagued by the ongoing issues with the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines installed on 15 of its 27 Dreamliners. The airline has taken to wet-leasing aircraft in order to operate its scheduled flights with as little disruption as possible. It’s even wet leased a Wamos Air Boeing 747, which TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig recently reviewed. (Spoiler: It wasn’t good.)
“Norwegian has contracted a Hi-Fly A380 aircraft to operate our evening London-New York and overnight New York-London services for several weeks in August as continued issues with a specific Rolls Royce engine type affecting our 787 Dreamliner fleet has reduced our aircraft availability,” Norwegian said in a statement to TPG. “This is in line with other airlines that have been affected by similar problems. We are pleased to be able to offer this solution to our customers to ensure that their journeys remain unaffected, and the A380 superjumbo offers a high-quality experience between London and New York courtesy of Norwegian.”
The world’s first used A380, officially took to the sky with a charter airline, Thomas Cook, on Wednesday. Inside the aircraft, which used to belong to Singapore Airlines, you can expect to find the same seats and configuration used by the previous owner. You can catch an inside look of the HiFly A380 here. But in short, it features 12 first-class suites, 60 lie-flat seats in business class and 399 seats in economy.
Update 8/3/18 8:55am: This story has been updated to reflect the new launch date, Friday, August 3.
All images by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.
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