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The World’s Best Long-Haul Commercial Aircrafts

When deciding exactly which flight to book for you or your travellers, there are a number of criteria to consider. Cost is undoubtedly a factor, as well as convenient timing. Perhaps the airline is important to you, especially if you have loyalty scheme membership. But would you choose your flight based on which aircraft you’ll be flying in? If you’re flying long-haul for business, you should definitely take it into consideration.
 
Even if you have no interest in plane spotting, the plane model you fly in does make a difference. New aircraft come into service all the time, while older models retire, destined for aviation museums or aircraft graveyards, or sometimes even converted into hotels. The more modern aeroplane designs are continually improving conditions for passengers, increasing legroom, decreasing engine noise and environmental impact, and refining layout and cabin design. So next time you fly, take note of which plane you’ll be in; after all, a comfortable traveller is a more productive traveller.

Which aircraft are in currently in service?

Today, aviation analysts Ascend estimate that there are 23,600 commercial aircraft in active service, with the Boeing 747, Boeing 777, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A320, Airbus A350 and Airbus A380 being the most popular for long-haul flights.

Which aircraft is best?

To help decide which aircraft is best, we’ve looked in detail at three different models: the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A350 and the Airbus A380.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

First commercial flight: 2011
Seats: 242-335 passengers
Operated by: Qatar Airways, Air Canada, British Airways,
Number in service: 554 as of July 2017
 
Nicknamed the Dreamliner, the Boeing 787 boasts various innovative features designed to enhance cabin comfort. Firstly, improved air conditioning helps to regulate cabin temperature, while the air pressure and humidity is controlled via a gaseous filtration system. This, coupled with reduced engine noise and soft LED lighting, helps passengers to relax and arrive at their destination feeling refreshed and jet-lag free. Furthermore, the Dreamliner’s dimmable windows are around 65% larger than standard, and allow passengers to shut out the light at the touch of a button. This not only gives the cabin a lighter, airier, more spacious feel, but also gives great views to those lucky enough to be sitting in a window seat. On the flip side though, if you are hoping to sleep though your flight, you might find the cabin to be a little brighter than usual, so Boeing has installed manually closing windows too.
 
Boeing are proud of the 787’s fuel efficiency, which when combined with the composite materials used to construct it, make it a particularly economic and energy-saving aircraft. It is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that will fly directly from London to Perth when Qantas launches the first non-stop service between the cities in March 2018.

Airbus A350

First commercial flight: 2015
Seats: 280-366 passengers
Operated by: Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, China Airlines
Number in service: 142 as of January 2018
 
The Airbus A350 was launched in January 2015, entering service with Qatar Airways. Its high ceilings, wide seats, straight walls and well-regulated cabin pressure make it feel more spacious than other aircraft, especially in Business Class. A direct competitor of the Boeing 787, it has a number of similar features, including a quiet engine and ambient lighting. It also boasts a high air quality, with the air refreshed every 2-3 minutes, allowing temperature and humidity to remain constant. Unlike the 787 however, the windows on this aircraft are pull down, so it gets pretty dark when the lights go out.
 
Similar to the 787, cost-effective, weight-saving materials in the wings and fuselage make the A350 a particularly fuel-efficient aircraft. Furthermore, the aircraft’s wing design has taken influence from birds, changing shape when in the air to increase efficiency and reduce drag, further reducing fuel consumption.
 
Currently, none of the airlines operating the Airbus A350 offer First Class cabins, so if luxury is important to you, you’ll need to book an Airbus A380 flight instead.
 

Airbus A380

First commercial flight: 2007
Seats: 525-830 passengers
Operated by: Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Etihad Airways
Number in service: 222 as of December 2017
 
If its luxury and comfort you are after, then the quiet, smooth and roomy Airbus A380 is the plane for you. Despite launching in 2007, it’s still the largest commercial plane in use, and is very popular. Airlines operating this aircraft enjoy its double decker design, which gives them more flexibility in cabin layout. In the case of Emirates and Qatar Airways, the A380 is fitted with an onboard bar and First and Business Class lounge, while Emirates also offers inflight spa showers. Etihad have gone one step further with their flagship suites, known as The Residence, 125-square-foot apartments featuring a lounge, an ensuite shower room and a double bedroom, as well as the services of your own personal in-flight butler. As you might expect, these suites come at a price, with a one-way flight from London to Abu Dhabi for two people costing around £7,000.
 
The Airbus A380 is particularly quiet thanks to its special noise reduction features. Furthermore, its novel wing design makes it very stable for such a large aircraft, so if you’re lucky with the weather you’ll barely notice you’re in-flight.
 
Although the Airbus A380 does its best to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, when fitted with a lounge, bar, or First Class suites, the per person carbon footprint of this is aircraft is higher than that of the Dreamliner or the A350. It is fast though, cruising at 900km per hour, whisking you from London to Singapore in just 14 hours and 10 minutes with British Airways.
 

Which aircraft is best?

While all three planes come highly recommended, especially in First or Business Class, if you want complete luxury and comfort when flying, then nothing beats First or Business Class seats in the Airbus A380, especially if you can stretch to Etihad’s The Residence. But if you’re on a tighter budget, or are not so bothered by the additional luxury that the A380 brings, then the A350 just as comfortable in terms of noise, light and air quality, even in Economy class. If sweeping views of the landscapes below you take your fancy then the Dreamliner is the one to go for, especially with the added bonus of its auto-dimmable windows.

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