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Is the Airbus A380 really that different?

By Phil Han, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Singapore Airlines first started flying the Airbus A380 in October 2007
  • Emirates Airlines placed an $11 billion order for 32 more super jumbos in June
  • Cabin of A380 is 50 percent quieter than 747 and has nearly 50 percent more cabin space
  • Innovations onboard include showers, lounges, stand-alone beds and private suites

London, England (CNN) -- When Singapore Airlines first started flying the Airbus A380 in 2007, it was still a big question mark whether the aircraft would be a hit with passengers.

Early indications were that the plane was a huge success in terms of passenger comfort and after nearly three years in service, routes that have the A380 are at near capacity.

Just last month, Emirates Airlines placed a mammoth order for 32 more Airbus A380s worth more than $10 billion -- the airline will have 90 super jumbos in total.

Other airlines like Qantas, Lufthansa and Air France also fly the A380 on some of their most lucrative routes.

But, is the Airbus A380 really worth all the fuss? Are passengers really willing to switch airlines or choose different routes just to be able to fly on the super jumbo?

On a flight onboard one of Singapore Airlines' newest A380s from London to Singapore, passengers would soon find out.

Noise

There's been so much talk about the A380's quiet interior, but until you actually take a flight in one, it is nearly impossible to get a sense of the silence.

On most aircraft, including the Boeing 747 and Airbus A340, noise levels are generally one of the factors that passengers dislike most.

Even with the stock standard ear plugs, they do little to block out engine noise.

On this particular Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore, the silence was almost worrying.

Right from takeoff, the level of noise was drastically lower.

Although there were four huge Rolls Royce engines at full throttle being used to lift the 571,000 kilogram aircraft off the ground, the interior of the plane was eerily quiet.

However, the full effect of the lack of noise doesn't really take hold until you are at cruising altitude.

Instead of talking loudly to the flight attendant to order the airline's famous Singapore Sling, passengers could whisper.

Full conversations were easily heard two rows back.

It was a startling and obvious improvement for passengers used to decades of loud engine noise and ringing ear drums.

Space

With nearly 50 percent more cabin space than the Boeing 747, airlines have used this as a big selling point to passengers.

Onboard Singapore Airlines, passengers in economy experience seats with a width of 48 centimeters across -- nearly four centimeters more than a 747.

Its business class seats are the widest in the sky at a staggering 86 centimeters (2.82 feet). On this particular flight, passengers were seen sitting cross-legged or even sharing their seat with another passenger.

But perhaps the greatest luxury for in-flight comfort lies with the airline's exclusive first-class suite.

Singapore Airlines' innovative first-class cabin, complete with stand-alone beds, sliding doors and blinds for privacy, has also earned it a sometimes dubious reputation, so much so that the airline introduced a "no-sex" rule onboard for passengers sharing the double-bed suites.

Onboard this particular Singapore Airlines flight, one passenger told CNN that they would never fly on any other aircraft on a long-haul route again.

"I don't know why anyone would ever want to fly on any other aircraft other than the A380," Tomas Chilsky said.

"I traveled to London from Frankfurt just to get on this flight and could never imagine going on another loud and uncomfortable flight for more than five or six hours.

"As a passenger, this is probably the most comfortable and enjoyable aircraft I have ever flown on."