Aside from the rare occasions when a new model is introduced, few aircraft deliveries have generated as much expectation. The delivery ceremony of All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) first Airbus A380 was certainly special.
It is not just the colourful, eye-catching livery that the Japanese airline had chosen for its first A380. It was also the first delivery of the type after the announcement by Airbus, last month, that the A380 assembly line was going to be closed.
The event itself had all the pomp and circumstance of the great occasions, with both Airbus CEO Tom Enders and ANA Holdings Chairman, Shinya Katanozaka, in attendance.
A short, but powerful light and music show preceded the unveiling, of what is likely the most extravagantly-liveried A380 in the World.
The “Flying Honu” design, that came up after a public request for ideas, takes its inspiration from a species of turtle that is native to Hawaii (hence its name, that comes from the local Hawaiian language) and is meant to bring good fortune to those that come across it.
Two other Flying Honu A380s will follow this one. If yesterday (our pictures) we could admire the blue one (“Hawaiian Sky” theme), next will be emerald green (“Hawaii Ocean”) and orange (“Hawaii Sunset”)
ANA intends to deploy its A380s primarily on the Tokyo to Honolulu route, as this is the most important international leisure destination for Japanese people.
ANA expects the A380 passenger experience will give it an edge in this key market and has set for itself the goal of increasing its market share from the current 15% to 25% once the three A380s are fully operational. In fact, ANA has developed a whole branding strategy for this route and has invested considerable resources in it.
ANA will offer a four-class product on this route (first, business, premium economy and economy) and it is also investing in a new large and luxurious lounge at Honolulu airport (its largest outside Japan). Passengers will also be able to enjoy a new line of elegant vanity kits and an upgraded culinary experience. The economy class cabin is also going to see some product innovation, in the form of the, aptly named, “ANA Couchii”, a seat couch that allows for the leg rests to be raised to convert a row of seats into a bed, complete with its own bedding.
What next for the A380?
On the Airbus side, the event provided an opportunity to question senior Airbus executives about the “day after” scenario, now that the european firm has confirmed that no more A380s will be built after the current outstanding orders are delivered.
The focus now is in possible retrofits and, in this regard, Airbus confirmed at the press conference that it is in advanced talks with several of the current operators to upgrade their current fleets with new cabin interiors. Sunny Gugliani, Head of Marketing for the A380 programme, refused to name specific airlines other than the two that have already gone public about this cabin refit: Singapore Airlines and Qantas.
Airbus continues to research new cabin layouts. The wide, spacious, cabin of the A380 is an asset that the European manufacturer aims to leverage to ensure that the iconic double-decker continues to be one of the most sought after experiences in the sky.