Airbus delivered the first giant passenger plane to Germany's largest airline Lufthansa on Wednesday, three years later than originally planned.
Airbus CEO Thomas Enders was on hand at the company's delivery center in Hamburg to provide Germany's national carrier Lufthansa with its first of 15 A380 jetliners.
"Airbus is proud to hand over the most modern and environmentally friendly aircraft in the world," Enders said, adding that Lufthansa was a particularly important client for the Franco-German company.
"We are opening the window for a great future for our company," said Wolfgang Mayrhuber, chairman of the board at Lufthansa, at Wednesday's official handover ceremony.
First stop: Frankfurt
The first A380 will fly to Germany's largest airport, Frankfurt am Main, on Friday, with some 500 specially invited guests on board. At the airport, a further christening ceremony is planned for the superjumbo, with the city's mayor, Christian Democrat politician Petra Roth, officially naming the plane.
Lufthansa's first A380 will be called Frankfurt am Main, after the international hub from which it will eventually fly. The jet's inaugural flight is planned for June 6, when it will transport the German national soccer team to South Africa for the World Cup.
Lufthansa plans to put the plane into regular service from June 11, hopping between Frankfurt and Tokyo with a capacity of over 520 passengers.
Three sister A380s, which are due to be delivered later in the year, will fly between Johannesburg and Beijing.
In total, Lufthansa has ordered 15 A380s. This first plane was delivered three years later than originally planned, after production delays.
Air France received its first A380 in November, and currently has three of the jets in service.
'The green giant'
The list price for an Airbus A380 is currently $364 million (300 million euros), and the company says its superjumbo is the world's most environmentally friendly plane.
Because of its ability to transport roughly 520 passengers in a standard configuration - with first, business and economy class seats - and around 800 passengers if all the floor space is used for economy class passengers, Airbus says it is the most efficient jetliner, per passenger, in the world.
But critics - not least Airbus' main competitor Boeing in the US - point out that these calculations assume that the massive plane will be fully booked on each flight.
Editor: Ben Knight