...Luxury Touted, Economy Predicted

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Of course, the biggest cheerleader for the super jumbo is Sir Richard Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic has ordered six. Branson is keeping the hype alive by announcing that the Virgin planes will have on-board casinos and even suites with double beds. "Maybe now there will be two ways of getting lucky on a Virgin plane," Branson quipped to reporters. Although Virgin and some others will undoubtedly include some bells and whistles for their well-heeled passengers, the more cynical among aviation consultants liken the A380 to the modern incarnation of a troop train. Henry Harteveldt, vice president of Forrester Research, told Wired News that the world has been promised staterooms and theaters in the sky once before -- with the launch of the Boeing 747 in 1969. "None of that happened," he said. "Airplanes are designed for one of two things, either freight or passengers." Despite the size of the plane, economy class will still be economy class, with seats about an inch wider than the current average. And while the marketers portray the A380 winging with style and grace on romantic transcontinental odysseys, some see it plying the busiest mid-length U.S. routes crammed with up to 800 budget-conscious passengers. Make sure you get a seat near an exit...