Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad Airways has launched its first A380 service to the Australian city of Sydney.
The inaugural flight – EY454 – departed Abu Dhabi International Airport at 10pm on Sunday night and is scheduled to touch down at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport at 5.55pm on Monday.
The return flight – EY455 – will depart Sydney at 9.25pm on Monday night.
The A380 will now operate one of the airline’s two daily services between Sydney and Abu Dhabi.
The airline’s additional four weekly Airbus A340-600 flights will also be upgraded to a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, a statement said.
The new daily A380 service, along with the upgrade to the B777-300ER, will increase the total number of two-way seats on the route by 30 per cent to 9,568 seats per week.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ president and CEO, said: “In 2014, we achieved an 88 per cent seat load factor on our Sydney route. The A380 will provide us with much-needed additional capacity, particularly in business class, where we consistently enjoy high levels of demand for our services.
“This capacity increase is particularly good news for our premium guests and for high-end leisure and business tourism at both ends of the Sydney-London route.”
The airline received delivery of its first A380 from Airbus late last year, and introduced the jet to London Heathrow from December 2014. Currently, two of the airline’s three daily flights to London are operated by the A380.
In March, the airline also announced that it will deploy the wide-body jet on daily services to New York from December 1, 2015.
Etihad’s A380 features The Residence by Etihad, an ultra-luxurious three-room suite measuring 125 sq ft, that includes a living room, separate bedroom and ensuite bathroom.
Guests using the service will also be offered a VIP travel concierge service including a luxury chauffeur, private check-in and lounge, an Etihad Butler on board and an inflight chef.
Located on the forward upper deck of the A380, The Residence by Etihad is available for single or double occupancy.
The A380 also features nine first apartments, which offer a private living space with a large Poltrona Frau leather lounge chair and an ottoman. The ottoman opens out into an 81-inch long bed. A fully equipped shower room is also available for first class guests.
A serviced lounge and bar area featuring leather sofas, refreshments and a TV is available to guests in first and business class.
The aircraft includes 70 business studios and 415 economy seats and is equipped with full mobile and wi-fi service, and USB and power points at every seat in every cabin.
Sydney Airport managing director and CEO Kerrie Mather, said: “Sydney Airport is thrilled to be the first and only airport in Australia and one of only two destinations in the world to welcome Etihad’s new flagship A380 service.
“The upgrade will boost tourism to Sydney and NSW by increasing seat capacity.”
Etihad’s partner airline, Virgin Australia, will codeshare on the new A380 services, the statement confirmed. The Abu Dhabi airline codeshares on Virgin Australia flights from Sydney to 24 destinations within Australia and New Zealand.