SYDNEY The world's biggest jumbo jet landed safely in Sydney on Thursday, completing its long-delayed first commercial flight from Singapore.
The double-decker A380 emerged from low-lying cloud to fly over Sydney's famous harbor before touching down on time, a contrast to two years of delays which pushed its European manufacturer Airbus into a loss.
Watched by hundreds of airport staff and aviation enthusiasts lining fences outside the airport, passengers on the inaugural Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight disembarked without a hitch.
The wet Sydney afternoon did nothing to dampen passengers' enthusiasm.
"It was great being a part of history," Michael Sim, who said he had paid about 30 percent more for his ticket than he would have on other flights, told Reuters television.
Passengers paid between $560 and $100,380 for seats on the inaugural flight, after bidding for the tickets as part of a charity auction to drum up publicity.
"It was a very smooth rise, and much quieter than the 747," Rainer Silhavy told Reuters.
During the flight, first-class passengers reclined in suites modeled on luxury yacht interiors and slumbered in proper beds which the airline said can be converted into doubles.
French design house Givenchy designed the bedding, while passengers ate off fine bone chinaware and drank from crystal glasses bought in by the same designer.
"Of course it was the first flight, so you get most of the first class treatment, I hope they keep that up," said Sim.
The A380 can seat more than 800 passengers although Singapore Airlines, the first airline to take delivery of the plane, has configured the aircraft to seat 470 over two decks, hoping to attract more top-paying passengers.
TRUMPS THE JUMBO
The superjumbo replaces the Boeing 747 as the world's largest airliner in service.
Hundreds of airport staff and passengers armed with camera phones earlier watched the take-off from Singapore.
"I'm a big airplane freak and I love everything about planes," said Ernest Graaff, an A380 passenger as he waited to board the jet among beaming SIA flight attendants.
Graaff paid $40,000 for two business-class tickets on the jet. "I'm excited about being a part of history."
The aircraft will return to Singapore on Friday.
"Flying the aircraft itself is like flying any other big jet," said pilot Robert Ting, who was one of four pilots and a crew of 30 aboard the flight.
"This aircraft comes with the latest technology ... for example this is an aircraft where we come with an electronic flight plan whereby we will have electronic manuals on board, we no longer carry paper copies," he told local television.
Airbus handed the superjumbo to SIA earlier this month after wiring glitches caused two years of delays, pushed the planemaker into a loss and leading to the loss of 10,000 jobs.
SIA is to take delivery of another five A380s in 2008. The airline plans to introduce the A380 on long-haul flights to London, Tokyo and San Francisco from early 2008.
(Additional reporting by Koh Guiqing in Singapore and James Regan in Sydney)
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