If you were at San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday, May 10th, you would have seen these signs all over the place.
The airport was in celebration mode for the arrival of Lufthansa flight 454 from Frankfurt, which represents the first, and so far the only, daily service of an Airbus A380 to SFO.
The A380 is the world’s-largest passenger plane and Lufthansa has this plane’s 526 seats configured with room for 420 coach seats on the lower level and, on the upper level, 96 business class seats and 8 first-class seats that are 6’9″ long and 2’7″ wide.
I rode along on the inaugural flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco and before the flight had a chance to roam around inside all cabins of the airplane. Up in the First Class section, the stand-out features include the absence of overhead bins (each passenger receives a locker instead) and the two large, lounge-like lavatories that include changing areas and, hidden behind roll-back walls, urinals, which will go a long way in keeping the bathroom area more welcoming during a long flight.
As you might imagine, before and during this inaugural flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco, there were speeches, a cake and a bevy of airline officials and invited guests in the first and business class section.
But not all passengers knew that this was a special flight.
For my seatmate, Oliver Friedrich, CEO of PV Contractor, a German solar and photovoltaic company with an office in San Francisco, snagging a business class seat on the new Lufthansa jet was a fluke.
He’d missed his United flight to SFO the day before and had spent a frustrating evening trying to get re-booked on another flight that might get him to San Francisco in time for an important meeting.
Ending up at the Lufthansa counter, Friedrich considered himself lucky to be able to exchange his United ticket, 100 Euros and a wad a frequent flier miles for a business class seat on Lufthansa’s flight the next morning. “The woman at the counter mentioned something about a new plane and a new service, but nothing more than that,” Friedrich told me.
So imagine the surprise when Friedrich was settling into his seat and was interrupted by Lufthansa passenger airlines CEO Carsten Spohr, who was passing through the forward business cabin introducing himself and welcoming people aboard.
“Business class is usually quiet and reserved,” Friedrich told me later, “I was wondering why everyone around me seemed to know each other and was chatting away.”