Emirates, the fast-expanding Gulf airline, announced Monday, July 28 it was ordering another 60 Airbus jets as it picked up its first A380 jumbo jet from the Airbus factory in Hamburg.
Thousands of employees celebrate at the Hamburg plant as the Emirates A380 is unveiled
The newly ordered planes, A350 and A330-300 models, are smaller than the two-deck A380, the world's biggest passenger plane. At official list prices, the value of the 60-plane order is some $13 billion (8.25 billion euros).
The colorful handover ceremony Monday was the first from a new A380 delivery centre set up by Airbus in Hamburg to accommodate airlines during the weeks of testing before the money is handed over and a jet is flown away.
The only other A380s yet in service are two with Singapore Airlines. They were picked up from the Airbus fuselage factory in Toulouse, France, which divides up the tasks of manufacture with the Hamburg factory.
The chief of the United Arab Emirates airline, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, said the airline had ordered 30 of the A350 model and 30 of the A330-300 jets.
It had already ordered 58 of the biggest in Airbus' range, the A380.
"The future has arrived," he said of the jumbo's start of service, adding to hundreds of Airbus staff: "Thank you. You have made history."
Emirates expanding fast
After taking delivery of the A380, Emirates Airways ordered 60 more Airbus planes
Dubai-based Emirates has grown fast thanks to fares which are sometimes lower than those at its competitors, massive investment based on the UAE oil wealth and tight payroll costs with its aircraft crews hired from all over the world. Its pilots hail from 83 nations.
In the year ended March 31, 2008, it carried 21.2 million passengers, an increase of 3.7 million from the previous year. Emirates currently operates 117 planes. After the new purchases and retiring older planes, it aims to have a fleet of 150.
Emirates is the largest customer to date for the flagship of the Airbus range.
Al-Maktoum said the North American continent was one of the company's key markets and that the airline was pleased to be the first to enter the US market with the new A380.
The aircraft, which has seats for 489 passengers, was to leave the north German port city Tuesday, before being put to work on the Dubai-New York route from August 1.
Superjumbo orders grow despite delays
Singapore Airlines already has an A380 in operation
Singapore Airlines' two A380 jets were delivered from Airbus' main French plant at Toulouse in October and January respectively. These aircraft ply the Singapore-Sydney and Singapore-London routes.
So far Airbus has taken orders for 198 of the double-deck A380s, which have a list price of 210 million euros ($330 million).
The huge aircraft made its maiden flight on April 27, 2005, but problems with the complex wiring and friction between the two factories led to a two-year delay in the delivery schedule.
The wiring problem is still slowing the production line, and Airbus chief executive Thomas Enders said the aircraft's problems will only be over once series production is running smoothly at a considerably higher rate than the current one per month.
"The challenge we face is speeding up production," he told the Hamburg daily Hamburger Abendblatt.
Airbus currently aims to deliver 35 of the aircraft by the end of next year.
Neither Singapore nor Emirates has chosen a configuration with anywhere near the maximum number of seats -- 853.
Reflecting its Franco-German heritage, Airbus builds the hulls of the two-deck planes in Toulouse, France and paints them and fits the seats in Hamburg, sharing out most of the work equally. The wings are made in Britain.