Emirates A380 Lands At New York's JFK

August 1, 2008

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An Emirates A380 superjumbo touched down at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on Friday, marking the first commercial arrival of the giant, double-decker passenger plane on US soil.

The Emirates aircraft, carrying 489 passengers, landed smoothly and on time after a 12-1/2 hour flight from Dubai.

The Gulf-based carrier, owned by the government of Dubai, is the second airline to put the A380 into service, following Singapore Airlines, which started A380 flights to Sydney in October.

The plane, costing USD$327 million at list prices, visited New York and Los Angeles in March last year for route-testing purposes, but Friday's flight was the first regularly scheduled arrival of an A380 in the United States.

With its huge capacity and relatively fuel-efficient engines, airlines hope the world's biggest passenger jet will be the most cost-effective way of serving high-volume routes linking big cities, especially in light of high oil prices.

Airbus has orders for about 200 of the planes from 16 airlines, but none to US carriers. The company is still trying to iron out production problems on the plane, after an 18 month delay in getting the first one out of its Toulouse, France, plant.

Despite problems, the plane is outselling its nearest competitor, Boeing's revamped, expanded 747-8 jumbo, known as the Intercontinental.

Boeing, which developed the concept of mass travel over great distances with its original 747 in the 1970s, has sold only 27 passenger 747-8s so far. The plane, which can seat 467 people in a standard layout, is set to be flown first by Lufthansa in 2010.

Emirates, the world's number-seven airline in terms of international passengers, is the biggest buyer of A380s, with 58 on order, worth almost USD$190 billion at list prices. After New York, it plans to fly the planes to London from December, then Sydney and Auckland from February.

Some 20 airports worldwide are currently able to handle the giant A380, which needs extra-wide taxi-ways for its long wingspan and two-tiered facilities for loading and unloading passengers.

Emirates took possession of the plane in a glitzy ceremony in Hamburg on Monday, flying it to Dubai then over to New York. The plane has 14 first-class suites, two on-board showers and a bar for first-class customers, as well as a lounge for premium passengers.

Emirates, along with regional rivals Qatar Airways, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Bahrain's Gulf Air, are expanding their fleets and routes as European and US carriers find themselves pinched by high fuel prices and waning demand.

Oil-rich United Arab Emirates hopes the new planes will help it transform into a world business and leisure capital in the next few years, aiming to attract 15 million visitors a year by 2012.

(Reuters)