The Dubai-owned airline Emirates, which in July placed the first order for the Airbus superjumbo, reacted with "delight" on Wednesday to the production launch of the European consortium's A380.
"All of us at Emirates are delighted, but not surprised, that the supervisory board of Airbus has given the green light to build the A380," said Sheikh Ahmad bin Said al-Maktoum, the airline's chairman.
"With air travel set to double in 15 years, a move towards larger aircraft such as the A380 is the practicable way to meet passenger demand," he said in a statement, a day after Airbus Industrie announced the launch of production.
Emirates, which plans to start flights to North America, has ordered five passengers and two freight versions in a deal which the airline said was worth 1.5 billion dollars. It has options on a further five of the superjumbos.
Development costs of the world's biggest plane are set at 10.7 billion dollars, bringing to the skies the first real competitor to the US Boeing 747.
The first version of the aircraft, a 555-seat A380-100, is to be delivered to Emirates and other customers in early 2006.
Airbus said the A380 has so far won a total of 50 orders and 42 options from airlines, among them Air France, International Lease Finance Corporation, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic -- DUBAI (AFP)
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