Saturday, 22 December 2012

The comeback of the airline hotel?

I hope there's some more legroom than in their aircraft!

I have read that Barcelona-based airline Vueling has set up a joint-venture with Hoteles Catalonia in order to launch Vueling-themed hotels for its travelers. These hotels will be marketed under the "Vueling by HC" brand. The first hotel and test-bed for this concept will be launched in central Barcelona shortly and its design is going to be inspired in the fresh casual-looking style sported by the airline.

It is an interesting move, because, setting aside Easyhotel, which is part of the much broader Easygroup brand portfolio, airline hotels seemed to have fallen out of fashion in the last two decades...

It was not always like this, there was a time when every self-respecting flag carrier used to run its own hotel chain. In fact some of today's international hotel chains have been historically linked to airlines, this is the case of Swissotel (originally a joint-venture between Swissair and Nestlé), of Golden Tulip (linked to KLM), of Radisson (SAS), although most of these airlines withdrew from the hotel business at some point in the last decade, either forced by their financial situation or for strategic reasons.

Sabena was one of the airlines with the largest hotel networks, often providing the top accommodation options in the African capitals covered by its network. In this picture, the Memling Hotel, originally a Sabena hotel, in 1970s Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (called Zaire at the time)

By the way, Sabena's Kigali hotel became famous after becoming a refugee shelter during the Rwandan genocide, in the events that were later depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda.

If we look back a few decades, to the early days of commercial aviation, when international hotel brands where not as widespread as they are now it possibly made lots of sense to offer a complete package to your regular customers (mostly businessmen and affluent people in those times) that might wish to avoid being exposed to variable service standards depending on the destination.

As air travel becomes more commoditized it might make sense to go back the provision of comprehensive travel experiences though, and who best positioned that the airline, that is often the first gateway to travel bookings...I just hope that the size of rooms and beds is not proportional to the seat pitch on their aircraft!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Analyzing Turkish Airlines route network

 Turkish Airlines is surprising us with new route announcements pretty much on a weekly basis: they are already the airline covering the largest number of destinations in the World and plan to increase this number to 300 by 2015...

Istanbul is, in a way, recovering its traditional role as a connector between East and West, a city that, quite literally, links different continents.

This is why I read with interest this Anna Aero report detailing, among other things, the traffic break-down on some of Turkish Airlines main European routes, both by type (origin and destination versus connecting) and by onward destinations of connecting passengers.

There are two things that I found particularly interesting:

1) Connecting traffic, although relatively high on all routes, as it is the norm for a global super-connector sucha s THY, was not nearly the levels where I would have expected it to be. On most routes there is roughly a 50-50%, 55%-45% split between O&D and connecting traffic, that proves that Istanbul and Turkey are in themselves a particularly large air travel market, a strong point in favour of Turkish Airlines in its quest for global leadership (wondering what are the figures for the Gulf hubs, but I have the feeling that is a lot less).

2) Some airports appear repeatedly among the main onward destinations of European traffic connecitng at Istanbul, there are three that stand out: BEY (Beirut), IKA (Teheran) and GYD (Bakú). Which means that Istanbul is a sort of World gateway for these points.

The case of Teheran might be explained by the political situation, which makes it unlikely that most international airlines will return to the country anytime soon.

In the case of Bakú, the situation might change a bit in the near future if Azerbaijan Airlines' expansion plans finally materialize (they even have a couple of Dreamliners on order).

But what happens with Beirut? I guess someone at MEA should be taking notes of this looks like the market is there!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Russian airlines update

 Easyjet, soon in Russia, but not without some business model changes

The first (and so far, pretty much, only) attempt to establish domestic low cost airlines in Russia failed last year when Avianova and Sky Express went bankrupt. What you possibly didn't know is that the latter was folded into Kuban Airlines (despite Russia's and, previously, Soviet Union's historical links with the Caribbean island, the airline's name has nothing to do with Cuba, it refers to the Kuban region of Southern Russia instead!)...well, Kuban airlines now ceases operations too. Not that it was a major player, but with a fleet of only seven aircraft it fell short of new regulatory requirements that put minimum fleet size at eight aircraft.

Regulation is actually one of the factors that has been hampering the development of a low cost airline industry in Russia (for a more detailed analysis see this article, it's nearly two years old, but  still valid).

Among the airline regulations that are somehow unique to Russia is the requirement that all airline tickets must be refundable. Although there is currently a project to make this requirement more flexible, it is estimated that  Russian airlines lose 8% of income due to last minute cancellations, something that other travelers end up paying for in higher fares (an estimation outs this "surcharge" at 22.7B. rubles per year, or in excess of $730M.).

This is something that Easyjet has had to comply with as it prepares to start flights to Russia (after winning a pitched battle against Virgin Atlantic for the right to operate this route following BMI's, the only British operator flying to Russia, acquisition by British Airways). Russia will be the only country in its network where the low cost carrier will sell refundable tickets.

Regulatory and operational complexity is not something low cost carriers like (even if Easyjet or Air Berlin are ready to comply in order to get access to a large non-saturated market), however I am trying to figure out, for a second, Ryanair negotiating exemptions with the Russian regulator and I have got the feeling that a truly developed low cost air travel market is still some way off in Russia...!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Planespotting at London City Airport

Today was a day of aviation firsts for me: first time at London City Airport and first time flying the Embraer E-190...and I give excellent marks to both!

London City airport is, obviously quite different from the other airports serving the London area, like an exclusive boutique compared to a mainstream retailer.

But I was also positively surprised as an aviation enthusiast an planespotter, since it is possible to enjoy great views of the runway from the waiting area of the terminal, and you can see some aircraft types that you seldom see at other London airports, such as the Avro RJ85s and several models of Embraer's E-jets.

Here are some pictures that I took while waiting to board my flight...I took some more interesting pictures with my camera (including one of the unique British Airways transatlantic business-only Airbus A318 and I expect to post them to my Instagram account in the near future).

There were actually three Swiss jumbolinos in a line, waiting to take-off...but only tow fit into the frame!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Vueling's two frequent flier programmes: which one's best?

I am about to book a flight with Vueling and I got to the point where I need to decide which frequent flier programme do I wish to use: Vueling Punto or Iberia Plus?

It seems that, although, both Iberia Plus and BA's Executive Club use the same "currency", Avios, and they both belong to IAG, their frequent flier programmes, unlike, for example, Air France-KLM's Flying Blue, are still run separately.

I am a Vueling Punto member, although I have seldom used it, but I gave up with Iberia Plus and switched to British Airways' Executive Club it seems that for me the best option is to stick with Vueling Punto but I have made myself the following question:

Are there any specific advantages of being on Vueling Punto instead of being on Iberia Plus? I mean, if Iberia Plus lets you collect avios both on Vueling AND on other Oneworld airlines whereas the former only lets you collect miles on Vueling. What is the point of holding the Vueling Punto? or maybe the "Exchange rate" between punto and Avios is not that favourable?

Any frequent flier programme experts in the room?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Air Lituanica, the new Lithuanian flag carrier: an answer to Vilnius connectivity problem?

While I recently wondered whether Vilnius, Lithuania, was still the European capital with the worst air connections some people where at work to prove me wrong...because Vilnius (and Lithuania) may soon have a new flag carrier: airLituanica (I am actually not sure whether I should write it like this, "airBaltic-style" in small caps, or as two words, "Air Lituanica", as the airline name appears written both ways throughout the presentation)

One interesting aspect of this new airline project for Lithuania is that there is a whole presentation about the project on slideshare (with date as of September 2012), that you can see here (part of it is in Lithuanian, a language that I, unfortunately, do not master, but there is also a section in English)

Air Lituanica pristatymas from Vilniaus miesto savivaldybė / Vilnius City Municipality

It looks like the new Lithuanian airline will start operating at some point in early 2013 with an initial fleet of two Embraer E-175 (to be increased to 4 in 2015) and routes to Amsterdam, London Gatwick, Brussels, Moscow Vnukovo and Kiev, in addition to the domestic destination of Palanga, on the Baltic coast. This network would later be expanded to include cities such as Stockholm and Munich and more.

(By the way: given that it is clearly stated that the fleet is going to be exclusively made of Embraers E-175s it would add credibility if future presentations would be illustrated with pictures of this aircraft type, rather than a mix of Boeing 737s and Airbus A320 that can be found on this one!)

The business model is defined as "low cost plus" which I assume to be another name for a "hybrid carrier", of the sort of Vueling or Air Berlin.

My first thoughts when reading about the project is that it is a going to be an easy ride, with a relatively small home market and airBaltic, Wizz Air and Ryanair with well-established networks in the region. Plus the fact that airLituanica is being kick-started by the city of Vilnius makes me, inevitably, think of Spanair, another airline that was supported from public institutions with the idea of fulfilling a "strategic" connectivity role for the city it served.

From the information found in the presentation above, it looks like the new carrier has got some very experienced advisors, though, such as London-based Aviation Economics, so we'll give it a vote of confidence after all...while we wait and see whether it is able to carve out a niche market for itself in this difficult market.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Qatar Airways to sponsor FC Barcelona, advertise on team's shirt

 Today we get into the fascinating World of football sponsorship, because it has been announced that Qatar Airways is going to become an sponsor of one of the World's top football ("soccer" for American readers!) sides: FC Barcelona. So we are going to see Qatar Airways on the FC Barcelona's shirt next season!

This deal consolidates the relationship between FC Barcelona and the emirate of Qatar (whose Qatar Foundation already sponsors the team) and mirrors similar sponsorship deals that top European football teams have sealed with the emerging airlines of the Gulf (the so called "MEB3"): Emirates is currently sponsoring English team Arsenal, Italy's AC Milan and is also adding FC Barcelona's arch-rival Real Madrid in the coming season, while Etihad Airways, of Abu Dhabi, and Qatar Airways are sponsoring Manchester City and Paris St.Germain, both owned by investors of their respective emirates.

The official accouncement, that can be found on FC Barcelona's website, does not disclose financial details, although sports daily El Mundo Deportivo reports that Qatar Sports Investments would pay €170 million for a six year sponsorship. Qatar Airways logo will then replace Qatar Foundation's one on the FC Barcelona shirts and merchandising. Apparently the possibility of replacing the sponsor's name was included in a clause of the original contract between FC Barcelona and Qatar Foundation.

Another point this announcement does not disclose is what is going to happen with FC Barcelona's current sponsorhip deal with Turkish Airlines. The Turkish flag carrier has invested heavily in sports sponsorship in its quest to position itself as a global super-connector and a competitor with the Gulf carriers and was, until now, the "official airline" of FC Barcelona. This relationship might be now "in the air" (if you allow me the bad joke).

By the way, all these airlines sponsoring several teams at the same time are starting to produce some slightly embarrassing situations: for example, a specially-painted Turkish Airlines aircraft flew FC Barcelona to the 2011 Champions League final, that the Catalan side played against non other than...Manchester United, a team that happens to have a similar sponsorhip agreement with the Turkish airline!

However, in this occasion, the final was conveniently played at Wembley stadium, in London, which made it unnecessary for Manchester United to fly...and, made a bit less blatant Turkish Airlines' alleged support for both teams!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Great time-lapse video of London Heathrow landings

London Heathrow's congestion problem are well is an amazing time-lapse video that @jplanas posted on his twitter stream that makes it easier to visualize Heathrow's airport frantic activity!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

IAG to bid for Vueling?

To bid or not to bid?

The news was out this evening that IAG is considering a bid for the share of Vueling it does not yet control (here is the official communication on the website of the Spanish stock-market regulator).

We will have to wait until Friday to know the details, but it makes sense...IAG is heading to an attrition war with Iberia's unions over the creation of its new low cost subsidiary, Iberia Express (and after this week's court ruling, there is no solution in sight anytime soon). The "new" carrier is IAG's attempt to stem losses at Iberia, particularly in the short and medium haul network.

And while Iberia is in turmoil, and as I already noted here a few days ago, Vueling (that is 40% owned by Iberia) appears to be in good shape. Such an irony, because Vueling is already exploiting successfully the sort of hybrid model that Iberia Express was trying to bring to Iberia's short and medium haul network!

What next then? 

As I said, it's early to say, the offer has not even been formalized, but things are getting interesting...

Could Vueling take progressively take over the Iberia Express project while Iberia focuses on the long-haul routes? After all, Iberia already had a "sister" company until the 90s, Aviaco, that was doing most of the domestic flights in Spain.

This option might not be good news for Barcelona airport, since there might be a risk, if Vueling "becomes Iberia" that the carrier will shift its focus away from its current base, where a major expansion is currently under way (or alternatively that it will split its fleet and network between Barcelona and Madrid).

Could the goal be merely financial, to consolidated the profitable Vueling operation in the not-so-good Iberia's accounts?

Is IAG planning to keep it as it is now, a stand-alone operation, while trying to extract more synergies and know-how from Vueling's experience in running a successful low-cost (or we should better say "hybrid") operation?

Let's wait until Friday to see whether anything new comes out of Iberia's results presentation!

Friday, 2 November 2012

The shortest commercial flight I've ever made

It was last week, courtesy of Easyjet...

When our flight from London Gatwick was about to land at Barcelona-El Prat, the pilot went on air to say that the runway where we were expecting to land had been temporarily closed and that, in view of the fact that we only had fuel for 20 more minutes of flight, we were diverting to Reus airport, 100 miles south of Barcelona, in order to refuel.

And so we did. The interesting part is that we then were to fly from Reus to Barcelona. I had flown short flights in general aviation aircraft before, but this is ceertainly the shortest distance I have flown in a commercial jet aircraft: it took about 15 minutes for the Easyjet A319 to cover the 100 miles that separate Reus and Barcelona airports...

Some curiosities from this experience:

-Upon arrival I noticed that our flight appeared twice on Barcelona airports flight information displays in the arrivals area and both with the same flight number: one for the original one from Gatwick and another one listed as coming from Reus.

-We could enjoy the safety instructions demonstration twice (even if no one exited the aircraft). I know this is standard practice but I found ita bit surreal.

-We were at Reus for longer than expected because the flight plan had to be provided to the pilots in paper and it seems there was no one ready to print it out at that time of the night at Reus airport (which is quite a small airport that gets only a handful of Ryanair flights at this time of the year). I guess this situation will not be hapenning a few years from now, when everyone is using iPads (I ignore if some regulations will need to change to adapt to the new paperless reality too).

This was my shortest commercial flight so far, but might not be the last, I know there are some scheduled flights out there that are even shorter than this, in the Caribbean and also in places like the Orkney Islands, that hold the record to the shortest regular commercial flight in the World!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Allplane in the media

A bit of blatant self-promotion here, I know, but it is nice to see one's work picked up by industry peers, particularly when we are talking about some heavy-weights of online journalism!

My picture of a Thai Airways' Airbus A380 crew sleeping quarters was re-published on the front cover of popular American technology site Gizmodo.

And my article about Vueling's recent expansion was picked up by online travel magazine Skift.

No need to say readership figures went through the roof with all this extra exposure!

Enjoy the read!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The World's most unusual airports: a visit to Gibraltar International Airport

If a few days ago I presented some cases of airports in challenging locations (all of them in islands where flat terrain is scarce or non-existent), this week I had the chance to visit an airport whose location is also a bit "complicated", I am referring to Gibraltar International airport.

Although not an island, land is certainly scarce in Gibraltar to the point that the current airport is partly built on land reclaimed from the sea. By the way, a strip of land that Spain claims, as, apparently, it was not included in the original treaty that ceded Gibraltar to the UK in perpetuity. This claim, that is, obviously, rejected by Britain, is at the origin of a seemingly endless dispute that has, at times, constrained the use of the airport and prevented the development of its full potential.

Gibraltar International Airport as seen from the North face of the Rock

Gibraltar's old WWII airfield was expanded on land reclaimed to the sea in order to be able to operate with modern passenger jets

An agreement between Spain and the UK over joint use of the airport relaxed things a bit in 2006 and Iberia and some Spanish airlines started flights to the Rock's airport shortly after, but these flights were far from a financial success and they were discontinued. As of today, the airport only has scheduled flights to the UK, operated by British Airways, EasyJet and Monarch (and we flew over Spain to get there from London, so it seems that airspace restrictions are no longer an issue!)

But as this is an aviation blog, I will leave the political issues aside on this post...

I must say I was positively impressed by the airports brand-new terminal, maybe because of the low volume of traffic that makes it look a bit oversized, but there is a minimalist feel that is quite useful in preventing pre-flight stress.

Another plus is that the views from the terminal are simply amazing, with the Rock dominating the landscape. The architects that designed the terminal have make it easy to enjoy this magnificent view by adding an outdoor terrace on the South side of the terminal (unfortunately, the fact that the airport only gets a handful of flights a day means that it is far from ideal for planspotters!)

A note on the side: I also enjoyed a lot the decoration at the (only) airport bar, with great aviation-themed vintage posters!

But the most unusual feature of the airport is that the runway crosses the only access road into Gibraltar, which means that, both, cars and pedestrians alike need to cross it to get in and out of the territory!

How often do you see an old lady with shopping cart crossing an airport runway?

Only in Gibraltar!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Iberia and Vueling on diverging flight paths

I just read an article on a Spanish news portal (in Spanish, "Iberia tenemos un problema"-"Iberia, we've got a problem") that warns about the difficult situation Spanish carrier Iberia is currently in.

Nothing that I had not brought up on this blog before: see my article of just a few days ago ("IAG's Spanish problem, Iberia Express and Vueling").

There are not many successful cases of network carriers creating spinning-off profitable low cost airlines, as noted recently by industry blogger Cranky Flier, not to mention the adverse effect it could have on your brand.

In Iberia's case, the problems are compounded by ongoing labour litigation that could take away all the labour cost reductions achieved with the creation of Iberia Express, its new low cost subsidiary...

Going through turbulence...

The ironical thing here is that, while this happens, Vueling, an airline that is 40% owned by Iberia, seems to be going from strength to strength, and it is actually "upgrading" its brand and services and recently announcing a major fleet and network expansion at its Barcelona base (although some Vueling frequent fliers tell me that the carrier has still some way to go in terms of reliability and customer service in order to shake off the "low cost" label completely).

An interesting case of business-fiction prospective would be the situation where Vueling ends up taking over Iberia's short and medium haul operations...seems quite far fetched at present, but about a decade ago we saw former regional operator Crossair taking over its bankrupt parent, the once mighty Swissair and more recently Austrian Airlines corporate structure being gradually folded under Tyrolean Airways (although keeping its brand).

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Vueling keeps growing, plans to fly to a 100 cities from Barcelona

More like this coming soon!

There was quite a lot of expectation today to hear what Vueling had to announce.

And there were interesting novelties, as Vueling continues to upgrade its product with the introduction of a business class. One step that was anticipated as it fits into the carrier's strategy to target business travellers.  So, this announcement did not really come as a surprise, as I had already pointed out in these pages how there were objective measures to qualify Vueling as a hybrid airline rather than a low cost carrier and the airline's top managers had already provided some hints about the imminence of this move.

Regarding fleet renewal and expansion programme Vueling will be getting some 9 brand-new aircraft of the A320 family shortly (at the moment is still flying some Iberia-then-Clickair 1990s-vintage A320s) and some of them will be equipped with wi-fi.  The first (unanswered) question that comes to my mind is whether this means the end of Vueling's flirtation with Bombardier's CSeries...

Another important novelty is the massive route expansion out of Barcelona and into Europe and Africa.   The new twice daily service between Barcelona and London Gatwick really stands out, because until now Vueling had avoided head-to-head competition on this route with Easyjet and Ryanair. Also of note is the airline'e first foray into sub-saharan Africa, where it is "taking over" the niche route to Banjul, that used to be operated quite successfully by now-defunct rival Spanair. New routes to Morocco reinforce the growing presence of Vueling in Africa, that I commented already a few months ago. 28 new routes in total for the summer season (you can find the list here) that will bring to 100 the number of direct destinations operated by Vueling from Barcelona.

In another example of the company's hybridisation, Vueling's CEO Alex Cruz said that he aims to make of Barcelona one of Europe's top hubs (I guess he was referring to intra-European connections, since there are still few long-haul flights at Barcelona that Vueling's passengers can connect too). In order to support this claim he revealed that transit passengers already make 20% of total traffic (not a bad number for a company that was not initially conceived as a hub-and-spoke network carrier!).

The hub-in-the-Med possibility that I outlined nearly two years ago might finally come to fruition after all...

Monday, 15 October 2012

Aviation videos (III): landing at small island airports

One of things I am wondering is how Felix Baumgartner managed to land at exactly the right spot from so high up...because landing can really be an art, be it because of adverse weather conditions or because the the airport is in a "challenging" location...and some of the most challenging airports are located in small islands, where it can often be difficult to find enough flat land to be able to build a runway. Have a look at these islands airports to see what I mean...!

In this video you will see several aircraft landing in cross-winds at Madeira airport, a landing streep embedded between a steep hill and the sea. I found particularly interesting the landing of Air Berlin aircraft from minute 9 of the video!

Vagar, Faroe Islands
The interesting here is the shape of the runway, that is not exactly flat, but adapts to the curvature of the terrain (this airport, built by the British during WWII is possibly worth a blog post of its own!)

Saba, Netherlands Antilles
If Madeira's airport looks challenging, what to say of Saba's!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Airline alliances & the Gulf carriers: if you can't beat them, join them!

Making new friends

Interesting times ahead for the airline industry...While old European, Asian and American flag carriers are still adapting to the tectonic shift that the emergence of the Gulf super-connectors (plus Turkish Airlines) has represented. We start to see another wave of strategic movements.

Today it's been confirmed that Qatar Airways is joining Oneworld, while Etihad has inked a codeshare agreement with Air France-KLM and Air Berlin (that despite being in Oneworld is partly owned by the Abu Dhabi carrier). And all of this with the Emirates-Qantas agreement that, although more limited in geographical scope than the three main alliances, promises to transform the Europe to Australia air travel market.

What next? A growing role for Turkish Airlines within Star Alliance? Emirates joining one of the alliances (they were talking with American Airlines' parent AMR) or creating its own alliance by striking deals similar to the Qantas one with other airlines?

What's clear is that the old saying still holds true: if you can't beat them, join them!

UPDATE: (or in this case it would rather be: "if you can't beat them, try to get them join you!)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Another amazing BBC video documentary: "How to build a Jumbo Engine"

The BBC is such a great source of aviation documentaries!

After having posted videos about a British Airways Boeing 747 refitting and the history of early British commercial aviation, I have just discovered this other great piece about how Rolls-Royce makes its Trent engines.

On this video you will be able to see not only most of the engine-making process at Rolls-Royce Derby factory (and understand the complexity and sophistication of a jet engine and why there are so few companies in the World able to make them!) but also the workings of the engine's manufacturer supply chain and the massive importance it has for the UK's industrial economy.


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Thai Airways' first A380 (& III): getting onboard

And, finally, the A380 was delivered to Thai Airways in a ceremony with Thai dances and the speeches...

And the Sun was shinning, which makes the A380 look a lot better!

And we got onboard, which was quite an experience, because I manage to see some parts of the aicraft that are normally out of bounds, such as the cockpit and the crew rest areas!

First class

First class toilet

First class lounge

Business class

Economy class

An old friend seen from the window: the Concorde!

The crew rest area, a part of the aircraft usually off-limits (an A380 has a crew of 23!)

The cockpit (it takes only one month of training for the pilots to transition from A340 to A380!)

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Thai Airways' first A380 (II): outside the aircraft

After visiting the A380 assembly plant, our group headed towards the Airbus Delivery Center, where Thai Airways was going to take delivery of the aircraft the following day.

And there she was...waiting for us! we did not get onboard, but could walk all around and below it!

Ah! and we later got to enjoy some great Thai food at a chateau nearby...but this is not a topic for this blog :-)

Thai Airways' first A380 (I): visit to the Airbus factory

I attended my first aircraft delivery ceremony this week and I also had the chance to visit an aircraft factory for the first time in my life. Both experiences were simply amazing!

I went to Toulouse to cover the delivery of Thai Airway's first Airbus A380. The Thai carrier has 6 of them on order as it goes ahead with its fleet renewal plan, that wil see all of its Boeing 747s phased out in a period of 5 years from now.

So I went to Toulouse as part of a group of journalists covering the event, not only from industry and trade journals, but also from Thai general media, many of whom had flown to France for the occasion. And it is here that I would like to take the chance to thank both Airbus and Thai Airways for the great organization and hospitality during the visit.

Once at Airbus' facilities we got an overview of the Airbus A380 programme and of Thai Airway's plans for their A380's deployment. The press tour included also a visit to the A380 assembly plant, an amazing building that we were told is the largest single-roof industrial building in Europe, it had been built on a greenfield site in 2004 with the sole purpose of assembling the largest aircraft of the Airbus family.

One of the things that I found most amazing is that far from a noisy and buzzing factory floor, as I was expecting, the factory is a actually a quite place, but not because of lack of activity, during our visit work was going on simultaneously on several airframes, but because the orderly and highly automated way the work is done. For those of you interested in seeing how an Airbus A380 is made, here are some pictures I took during the factory tour. In the next post I will narrate our encounter with Thai's first A380.

The A380's fuselage sections are assembled in Toulouse...

...although the components are being shipped from all over Europe

the nose

the wings

the tail

An A380 being readied for Emirates

the landing gear

View from inside the Airbus factory