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A380 superjumbo makes European debut in London

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) March 18, 2008
The world's biggest passenger plane, Airbus's A380, touched down in London Tuesday on its first commercial flight to Europe facing questions from green groups over its eco-friendly billing.

The Singapore Airlines jet, as tall as a seven-storey building and with about 50 percent more cabin space than its rivals, was carrying 449 passengers enjoying increased legroom and state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment.

Airbus said the superjumbo is "a significant step towards greener flying" but campaigners are less enthusiastic, warning the environmental benefits of the high-capacity plane will be outweighed by rising demand for air travel.

Flight SQ308 took off from Changi airport in Singapore at 9:19 am (0119 GMT) Tuesday and arrived in London at around 2:50 pm (1450 GMT) after 13 and a half hours in the sky.

Its passengers, who were given personalised commemorative certificates to mark the occasion, clapped loudly as it touched down.

The captain of the plane, Gerard Yeap, praised the ride, saying: "It is an absolute pleasure to fly this plane. It's smooth and it's quiet and you don't feel it is a really big plane."

Passengers spoke of their excitement as they boarded, particularly over the super-luxury comforts available to those who can afford what Singapore Airlines brands "a class beyond first".

This features 12 suites with full-length beds behind sliding doors, sheets by French designer Givenchy and flat-screen televisions.

"I am looking forward to the suites," said Briton Bertuccio Ginomr, who owns a cosmetic business.

"This is my second time on the A380 and the suites are awesome."

Airbus says that the A380 burns 17 percent less fuel per seat than other big airliners and that this will reduce the carbon footprint of each passenger.

"The new aircraft...represents a significant step towards greener flying," said Singapore Airlines' United Kingdom and Ireland general manager Marvin Tan.

"Our aircraft will also carry a third more passengers than the B747-400, thus enabling us to satisfy demand without having to increase the number of flights."

But Richard Dyer, transport campaigner for British-based environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth, said that the plane should not be described as eco-friendly.

"The benefit of increasing plane capacity to accommodate more passengers will easily be outweighed by the rapid growth in flights," he said.

"New technology alone will not solve aviation's impact on climate change."

John Stewart of HACAN Clear Skies, a lobby group for people living under the Heathrow flight path, acknowleged that the A380 would be cleaner and quieter than existing planes, but voiced doubts about its billing.

"I think that the impression is sometimes given by the manufacturers that it's going to be a quiet plane but it isn't, it's still going to be one of the noisy beasts of the sky," he added.

Anna Jones, climate campaigner for Greenpeace, added: "Regardless of what the industry says, bigger planes and more flights will lead to higher emissions at a time when we urgently need to see them fall."

Last week Queen Elizabeth II opened a new, fifth terminal at Heathrow that will handle growing capacity at one of the world's busiest airports.

The airline will use the A380 on the route between London and Singapore from Tuesday.

The A380's first commercial flight was in October last year. Its development by Airbus was plagued by serious cost overruns and delivery delays of as much as two years.

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Aviation industry must act fast on climate change: Airbus chief
London (AFP) March 13, 2008
The aviation industry must act quickly to lower its own carbon emissions or face government regulation, the chief executive of European plane company Airbus wrote in a comment piece Thursday.

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