Air travel soars to new heights of luxury

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Singapore Airline s Airbus A380, the world s largest and most modern jetliner, arrived Wednesday in its new home, ahead of a historic flight next week that its makers say will redefine luxury in the air.

Freshly painted with the airline s peacock logo on its tail, the double-decker A380 touched down on schedule at Changi Airport, watched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other dignitaries.

This is the most anticipated event this century in aviation, said Bey Soon Khiang, a senior executive vice president of the airline. A380 is a game-change. This week the game changes.

Airbus formally delivered the plane on Monday in Toulouse, France, where the superjumbo was constructed. The jetliner, which took seven years and about $13 billion to develop, rolled off the assembly line nearly two years behind schedule.

After one week s preparations at Changi, the plane will take off for its first commercial flight to Sydney on Oct. 25 as flight SQ380. Seats on the inaugural flight were sold on an online auction and raised $1.25 million for charity.

The highest bidder was Julian Hayward, a 39-year-old Briton based in Sydney who paid $100,380 for a pair of one-way Singapore Airlines Suites which the carrier describes as a class beyond first.

Each of the suites is enclosed by sliding doors, and is equipped with a bed, a 23-inch flat panel television, a table, a reclining chair. Two of the suites will have double beds.

All this will not come cheap. A round-ticket to Sydney will cost more than $6,800, about 25 percent more than the first class ticket on other Singapore Airline flights to Sydney.

The new luxuries in air are meant to entice top-end passengers of other carriers.

We want to see all premium passengers of all carriers to shift to us, Bey said. At the back (economy class) also, we hope to get passengers from everywhere.

Singapore Airlines has created a lot of hype around the new plane, which is touted as more fuel-efficient than others and is the most silent among all large passenger jets.

The superjumbo, which is as tall as a seven-storey building, taxied to its gate under a canopy of water sprayed by two fire trucks positioned on both sides of the tarmac and booming drums.

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