The new Airbus A380 superjumbo jet has received worldwide praise, but business travelers who buy a ticket on the aerial behemoth when it starts service next year out of Los Angeles International Airport may want to lower their expectations at least a bit, anyway.
Yes, the double deck jet as outfitted by Qantas Airways has a lounge reserved for business class passengers, replete with leather couches. There's also video monitors, Internet laptop connectivity and access to a small liquor bar, which carriers have largely phased out on their 747s.
And, yes, the seats fully recline, meaning real sleep is a possibility on those trans-Pacific flights from LAX. But the A380 is hardly the first airliner to provide full reclining business class seats, which are becoming increasingly common.
And don't necessarily expect a three-star Michelin traveling experience not unless you dig thousands of dollars into an expense account to upgrade to the first class suites with their private beds, something reserved for only 14 passengers.
Indeed, the 90-minute demonstration flight offered by Qantas last week to invited guests that included reporters from the Business Journal and other news organizations gave the distinct impression that there is only so much an airline can do to distinguish any commercial airliner aimed at carrying hundreds of passengers.
Qantas, which will offer the first U.S. passenger service on the A380 with its Los Angeles-to-Sydney flight next year, plans to limit its business class to 72 seats on the plane's top deck with a dual-aisle, two-by-two-by-two layout.
That configuration minimizes the necessity of business travelers having to brush past other travelers to get into their seats but it doesn't eliminate it. (Singapore Airlines is configuring its A380 business class seats with a one-two-one layout which permits aisle access for every seat.)
The Qantas business class seats also are more comfortable and wider than your average coach seat, with additional leg room, but they don't approach the roominess of top first class seats on some airlines.
Still, the demonstration flight managed to wow most passengers, with perhaps the cabin's relative lack of noise eliciting the most notice aside from the sheer size of the plane and its wingspan that nearly extends the length of a football field.
"I had been a little bit scared to fly, but this has been so much fun," said Al Piantanida, a resident of Arleta who was given the seat in recognition of the work he has done in his community. "It was so quiet, I didn't even know it was in the air."
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