A big question:

These are the days when smaller is better — as in iPods, BlackBerrys and tiny phones that take pictures — but for European leaders bruised by Washington of late, the unveiling of the hulking new A380 jumbo jet was a chance to revel in having something bigger than the Americans. Everyone knew that Gerhard Schröder was addressing himself to Donald Rumsfeld when he hailed “the tradition of good old Europe that has made this possible.”

The thing is certainly big — 30,000 tons heavier and 16 feet taller than a Boeing 747, with wings 50 feet wider. Its upper deck stretches the length of the plane, making room for as many as 840 seats, compared with a mere 416 in the 747. But is big still so beautiful? The biggest ship sank a long time ago, the fastest jetliner is retired, and the tallest skyscrapers don’t have the same glamour since Sept. 11, 2001. Anyone who’s ever waited for luggage to come off a 747 will shiver at the thought of adding hundreds of additional bags.

Airbus is hoping airlines will jump at the possibility of offering long-haul passengers in-flight facilities like bars and shops. Boeing is betting that the future is with medium. Its next entry is the 300 seater 7E7 able to fly to smaller airports. As passengers, we’ll just hope that an airline maker will also think of little things like breathable air and something that at least resembles legroom. — The New York Times