Airbus has found its first official customer for its A3XX super jumbo airliner in a deal which will boost the chances of the project going ahead.
Dubai-based airline Emirates will buy up to ten A3XXs in an order which could be worth US$2.3 billion. Five aircraft are on firm order and five are on option. The ten planes could also include two freighters. Deliveries will begin in 2006, once the final launch decision for the A3XX is made.
A launch will depend on other customers signing up. Target buyers include Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, while the first A3XX is expected to fly in 2004.
The A3XX launch will take Airbus into an airliner market that was previously the sole preserve of the Boeing 747, the original jumbo. Boeing does not believe that there is a market for super jumbos and says that stretched 747s can do the job instead of a new aircraft and has a team of designers and engineers working on this project.