SINGAPORE (Kyodo) — Airbus made the first delivery Monday of its A380 superjumbo jet — the world's largest passenger plane — to Singapore Airlines in a formal handover ceremony at the European manufacturer's headquarters in Toulouse, France.
The spacious double-decker aircraft is expected to boost capacity on popular routes for SIA, the largest airline in the world in terms of market capitalization.
The aircraft will leave Toulouse for Singapore on Tuesday and is to arrive at Changi airport late Wednesday afternoon.
SIA will be the first airline to fly the jet when it launches a special charity return flight between Singapore and Sydney on Oct. 25. Thrice daily scheduled flights between Singapore and Sydney will start Oct. 28.
Most of the 471 seats on the charity flight have been sold by auction on an Internet website, with an Australian man paying as much as $100,380 for a pair of seats.
SIA has ordered 19 of the superjumbo jets for $5.7 billion, with an option for a further six aircraft.
It said it plans to launch thrice daily flights between Singapore and London from the first quarter of next year after further deliveries, resulting in a ''kangaroo route'' connecting Singapore, Sydney and London.
Airbus said it has so far received a total of 189 orders for its superjumbo jets from 16 airlines.
The delivery of the first A380 to SIA was originally scheduled for the first quarter of last year, but it was delayed due to wiring and other problems.
SIA has continued to grow in both profit and passenger traffic in recent years and appears not to have been dented by the emergence of low cost airlines.
Analysts say the main reason is it provides premium services that target a different market than budget airlines.
SIA carried 18 million passengers in the 2006-2007 financial year — an 8 percent jump from the previous year — while net profit jumped 71 percent to S$2.1 billion (US$1.4 billion) over the same period, according to its last annual report posted on its Website.
It is the eighth largest airline in the world in terms of international traffic movement and had a market capitalization of about $14 billion as of the end of December last year, according to the International Air Transport Association.