Monday, October 20, 2008

Largest Commercial Plane Lands At LAX

The world's largest airliner landed at Los Angeles International Airport this morning, with about 450 people aboard, kicking off Southern California's first A380 passenger service and providing a welcome economic boost for the slumping airport.

Qantas Flight 93 from Melbourne touched down at 7:30 a.m. and was greeted by public officials and Hollywood celebrities including actor John Travolta and singer Olivia Newton John. The jetliner is scheduled to begin its return flight to Australia late tonight.

Passengers, most of them Australians, described the flight as very quiet and smooth. They also said they had little problem getting through customs and retrieving their bags.

"I'm surprised. I'm stunned actually," said Phillip Prendergast, who flew from Melbourne with his wife Carmen. "The custom agents were reassuring and friendly, too."

Today marked the start of the first scheduled passenger service of the new A380 at Los Angeles International, which by 2012 is expected to serve more super-jumbo jets than anywhere else in the world.

The double-decked Airbus A380 is expected to alter the skies over Southern California much the way Boeing Co.'s 747 awed spectators and travelers when it began flying out of LAX nearly 40 years ago.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, on hand for the event, noted that the A380 was "finally here" after a two-year delay and touted how the start of the service would be an economic engine that could pump more than $600 million annually into the region and create 3,000 jobs.

The Qantas flights also provide a much-needed boost to LAX, which is seeing flights dwindle as airlines slash service amid high fuel costs and low demand.

Although the A380 is about third larger than a typical long-haul aircraft, passengers said they had few problems getting through U.S. customs and retrieving their bags. Some observers have criticized the plane as being too large and raised concerns that it would clog airport operations.

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