Japanese budget carrier Skymark Airline took a step towards launching a price war between Tokyo and Europe by confirming a USD$1.5 billion order for four A380 superjumbos from Airbus.
Japan's third-largest airline has said it plans to halve the regular price for business class tickets by competing with established Japanese and European rivals on the world's largest passenger plane, fitted out for business and economy.
Airbus said on Friday that Skymark had confirmed an order provisionally announced in November for four A380s at a signing ceremony on Thursday.
It did not give financial details. The A380 has a list price of USD$375 million but aircraft usually sell at a discount.
Chief executive Shinichi Nishikubo, who ran an internet service provider before going into the airline business, said in December that Skymark would start flights to London, Frankfurt and Paris from 2014.
Air France-KLM and Germany's Lufthansa already operate daily A380 services to Tokyo Narita.
Airline analysts say the low-cost airline will face aggressive competition from more established rivals.
The announcement came on the eve of a new, five-times weekly service between London and Skymark's home base of Tokyo Haneda to be operated by British Airways from Saturday.
BA operates daily from London to Narita using Boeing long-range aircraft, with the A380 also on order, and played down the threat of competition.
"We are one of the first European airlines to offer flights to Haneda and believe we offer very competitive business-class fares," a BA spokeswoman said.
Skymark will also compete with All Nippon Airways (ANA) and bankrupt flag carrier Japan Airlines.