On Thursday, 5 June, I was lucky enough to be among the crowd at Hamburg Airport waiting breathlessly for it to arrive. As it approached the runway, perhaps due to its enormous size, it appeared to be moving in a graceful slow motion. Then Lufthansa’s newest baby, the airline’s 12th A380, touched down expertly a few minutes after 1:00 pm local time, while more than a hundred special guests pressed their noses and cameras against the glass at a cordoned-off section of Terminal 2.
An A380 can always draw a crowd, but this one is very special. You see, Lufthansa has a policy of naming its airplanes after cities – and this extraordinary bird was about to be officially named for the place in which it was completed, the heart of the aviation industry in Germany, the city Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. And as the double jetways extended towards her port and starboard sides before us, the cockpit window slid open and out of it was thrust a large red flag bearing the crest of the city.
On hand for this special occasion was a congregation of local media, senior representatives from Lufthansa, Hamburg Airport and Airbus, plus a large assortment of friends and other key individuals. The feeling in the air was one of patriotism and pride, not to mention the electric tingle of genuine excitement as the clock ticked closer the 3:30 pm departure time for our roundabout flight (the first on an A380 for many of us).
“The aviation industry is one of the major growth drivers and employers in our city. The high order volumes from Airbus here make for a long lasting job security, with many positive effects in other areas,” said Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz just moments before baptising the colossal bird with a bottle of good Champagne. “This A380 will be an excellent ambassador for the city of Hamburg, and not least because it underlines our claim to represent one of the world’s largest aviation centers.”
In the crowd I found Florian Siedel, Head of Communications at Airbus Germany. He told me that this particular aircraft left Airbus’s Hamburg completion centre about three weeks ago. Lufthansa then took her straight to Frankfurt, the airline’s main hub. Since then, it has already carried a number of passengers between Frankfurt and Lufthansa’s A380 destinations of Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai, New York, Houston, Miami, San Francisco and Johannesburg.
Like everyone else present, he was thrilled to be part of the celebrations. “For the community and also the wider public, it’s great to have such a big aircraft – the flagship of Lufthansa and the flagship of Airbus – flying with the name Hamburg. Most of the Hamburgers you could ask would be very proud of it,” he said. “For us it is the same thing. Hamburg is very much like Toulouse. It is our most important production site in one of the core countries of Airbus. It’s just fitting to have an A380 called Hamburg.”
Later, on the all-Business Class top deck of the surprisingly quiet machine, I enjoyed a glass of very nice wine (life was just beautiful that day) and resisted a profound urge to play with my electronic seat controls as I chatted with Aage Duenhaupt, Director of Group Communications for Lufthansa.
“Hamburg is the heart of Lufthansa in a certain way. Especially when you look back and discover that after the Second World War, on the first of April 1955, the first ever Lufthansa flight took off from Hamburg. We also have a very big maintenance operation in Hamburg with Lufthansa Technik, so it is a special moment for us,” he told me, adding that Hamburg is not the only place to have received its namesake A380 with such fanfare. “I have been on a couple of these events and the good thing is that there are many other cities in Germany, as well as German states, which are as proud as we from Lufthansa to take the names.”
Fun facts about A380
- To date, Airbus has completed 132 A380s in Hamburg. Around half of them have been delivered from Hamburg and the other half from Toulouse, but all had their cabin installed and were painted in Hamburg.
- 324 A380s have been ordered to date. Lufthansa has ordered 14.
- The “Hamburg” is the 12th A380 that Lufthansa has received. Number 11 was delivered earlier this year and is named for the German city of Düsseldorf.
- The next A380 to be delivered will most likely be an Emirates plane, and the one after that will be their 50th A380.
- Asiana became the 11th A380 operator 2 weeks ago.
- The next airlines to become new A380 operators are Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Skymark (from Japan). All will take delivery this year.
All pictures are courtesy of Hamburg Aviation. Visit Hamburg Aviation on Twitter at @HAM_aviation. See more pictures from the event below.