The A380 beast comes to IAH
And as you can see in the picture, a beast she is. 526 passengers on two decks, including 98 in business class and 8 in first class on the upper deck. Lufthansa dedicated one of their 10 precious A380s - the largest passenger plane in the world - to the Frankfurt-Houston route, connecting the two largest hubs of the two largest members of the Star Alliance with 50% more capacity. And I was lucky enough to get to attend the welcoming ceremony on Wednesday.
A lot of interesting facts about this one:
One pretty disappointing downside for Houston flyers: because of its size, they put the D12 gate for it on the very northeast corner of Terminal D, and there is actually no way to see the plane from the gate area: it's hidden behind a windowless wall and the D11 gate. They let some of us from the media down on the tarmac to see it arrive, but the large welcoming party at the gate area must have been disappointed, as I'm sure future flyers will be. Hopefully there's something they can do in the future to give it more visibility from the waiting area - maybe a live video monitor, new window, or even a giant angled mirror to see around the corner... ;-)
- It's the first A380 service to Texas, or to any interior U.S. city for that matter - meaning we beat out mega-hub cities Atlanta, Chicago, and DFW. Impressive.
- It's the 4th U.S. destination for Lufthansa's A380s, after NYC, San Francisco, and Miami.
- Only 78 A380s currently exist in the world, with 180 more on order.
- The A380 is 30% less noisy than other wide-body airplanes, and we noticed it on the tarmac. It was remarkably quiet as it pulled up to the gate.
- They estimated it would take two years for IAH to prepare to handle such a plane, including double-decker upper and lower boarding jetways, but they did it in 8 months and under-budget.
- Lufthansa is of course targeting the lucrative oil and gas traffic, and specifically mentioned that they connect 35 oil and gas destinations out of Frankfurt.
OK, one more pic from the plane, for the ladies out there wondering about expected skirt lengths (and widths!) for the flight, but good luck fitting in your coach seat if you wear something like this... ;-)