Passengers turning up at Heathrow for a routine departure to Frankfurt were surprised to find themselves aboard British Airways' newest plane. Instead of an old Boeing 767, they stepped aboard the Airbus A380, for a 90-minute flight to Frankfurt.
At 7.14am, BA entered the SuperJumbo age when its first commercial service using the new jet took off.
The airline took delivery of the double-deck aircraft last month. For the past few weeks it has mainly been shuttling between Manston in Kent and Vatry airport in France as flight crew familiarise themselves with the aircraft.
In order to give cabin crew and ground handlers experience of the jet, it is now being deployed on short-haul flights - starting with BA902 to Germany's financial centre. Frankfurt was chosen because it is a high-frequency destination from Heathrow, and the airport is already well accustomed to handling the A380.
The flight carried only one-third of its maximum passenger capacity of 469, to allow the airline flexibility if it needed to replace the A380 with a smaller aircraft at short notice.
All passengers were accommodated on the lower deck; those carrying Club Europe tickets were able to enjoy lie-flat business-class beds on the short flight.
A spokesman for BA said: “We are confident our customers will enjoy the space and comfort on board the aircraft”. The A380's first long-haul route is scheduled for 24 September, from Heathrow to Los Angeles. It will also serve Hong Kong and Johannesburg.
Emirates chose the same day to celebrate five years of flying the A380. All its five daily services from Heathrow to Dubai use the SuperJumbo.
BA had made no official announcement about the Frankfurt flights, but rumours had abounded in aircraft enthusiast circles. Showing scant regard for the rules on the use of phones in flight, the “Dutch A380 Fan Club” tweeted: “Hello live from onboard the British Airways Airbus A380!! This is what I've been waiting for!!”