Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Airports expanding to accommodate new Airbus A380


ow will airports accommodate the world's biggest passenger jet?

At Paris' leading Charles de Gaulle airport, where the hulking Airbus A380 landed for the first time on Friday, preparing for its arrival meant enlarging runways and bridges and building a new boarding lounge -- at a cost of US$134 million.

Airports in San Francisco, London, Sydney, Singapore and Frankfurt, Germany are already prepared to receive the 555-seat plane, having also spent millions. Other hubs are following suit, Airbus officials say.

The superjumbo, which starts being delivered to airlines later this year, has been plagued by a series of scandals that have caused shares of Airbus' parent EADS to plunge, wiped billions of dollars off profit forecasts and set back delivery by two years.

"This airplane has created a lot of debate," said Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois after the glitch-free arrival in Paris. "Now we know it is here, it is beautiful, it is excellent."

Plane-spotters bedecked with cameras and telescopes lined roads near the airport to greet the A380's arrival. Two giant water cannons sprayed the plane as it taxied in at the airport, where it will remain for two days of tests before heading to Japan, Australia and Taiwan.

The superjumbo carried its "VIP" passengers -- six Parisian schoolchildren and their teacher -- from Airbus' headquarters in Toulouse.

Charles de Gaulle airport's new passenger lounge, designed to handle up to six A380s at the same time, will be operational by the summer. Each plane will have three jetways, for speedier boarding. The airport has also strengthened its runways and widened its taxiways.

The first deliveries of the A380 are scheduled to be made in October to Singapore Airlines Ltd. Air France-KLM, the first European carrier to fly the plane, is scheduled to take its first delivery in April 2009.

Airbus touts the A380 as quieter than most existing commercial aircraft, with better fuel efficiency and lower emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide per passenger.

On its Web site, Airbus said that as of April it had received 156 orders for the new plane, which is priced at about US$319 million. It has no US carriers as customers.

Los Angeles International Airport, the fifth-busiest airport worldwide, is expected to be the first US destination for the A380 after it enters commercial service.

The city's airports agency is spending more than US$120 million on projects to prepare Los Angeles International and nearby Ontario International airports for the new jets.

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