New jumbo jet's first commercial flight takes off

The largest passenger jet ever built by Boeing has made its first commercial flight.

The 747-8 Intercontinental jumbo jet, the longest airliner in the world, took off on Friday from Frankfurt, Germany to Washington DC in the US in its first flight with launch customer Lufthansa.

"The Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental is an exceptional aircraft," said Christoph Franz, chairman and CEO of Lufthansa, ahead of the jet's departure from Frankfurt.

Lufthansa's 747-8 has 362 seats in a three-class configuration (eight first class, 92 business class and 262 economy class).

The business class cabin features a "V" shaped layout where two neighboring seats are angled towards one another along a central axis. Lufthansa says the design came from customer research that showed business travellers wanted to sit or lie in the direction of travel, without surrendering the distance between seats. The seats feature a pitch of 78 inches (198 cm) when in the lie-flat position.

The Boeing 747 jumbo jet is an iconic aircraft, making its first appearance in 1968. The 747-8's predecessor, the 747-400 is flown by dozens of airlines around the world including Qantas, which has 27.

Sales for the new passenger aircraft have been slow compared to its main rival, the Airbus A380 superjumbo. Boeing's new jumbo can carry up to 467 passengers, while the A380 carries about 525 in a three-class configuration. Lufthansa is the 747-8's biggest customer with 20 of the jets on order. The cargo version of the 747-8 however, is proving popular with freight companies, with 70 ordered to date.

The plane is several tonnes heavier than Boeing's original target, which generally increases fuel costs. The plane maker said in February it plans to hit its original weight target by 2014.