The Airbus A380 club is about to get bigger by one airline.
The first “superjumbo jet” bound for Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) took to the skies Monday at Airbus’ assembly line facility in Toulouse, France.
The jet’s maiden voyage took it to another Airbus facility in Hamburg, Germany, where the jet is now being readied for cabin installation. It also will be painted in a special sea turtle paint scheme that ANA has planned for the aircraft.
ANA's order for three models of the jet gave Airbus’ struggling A380 program a boost in 2016.The deal also helped Airbus partially salvage an A380 order canceled by bankrupt Japanese carrier Skymark. At the time, Airbus hadn’t landed a new airline customer for the A380 in nearly three years, according to Bloomberg News.
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There had been speculation about the long-term future for the A380, though those concerns eased – somewhat – when Emirates announced it would buy 20 more of the plane.
As for ANA, it will become the first Japanese carrier to fly the double-decked A380, the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft.
Delivery of ANA’s first A380 is scheduled for early 2019, when the airline will deploy the plane on its Tokyo-Honolulu route.
PHOTOS: The world's Airbus A380 fleet (story continues below)
ANA says it will give its first A380 a paint job that will make it look like a giant sea turtle. That “Flying Honu” livery was picked after nearly 2,200 people submitted entries in a paint-the-plane contest that ANA opened to select a unique look for its first A380.
Once ANA takes delivery of the A380, it will become the world’s 15th airline to put the plane into service.
The 14th carrier to fly the jet came earlier this year with little-known European charter carrier HiFly. The Portuguese-based company bought a secondhand Airbus A380 that first flew for Singapore Airlines, which later returned the jet as it took delivery of newer versions.
The A380 now owned by HiFly remains decked out in Singapore’s luxurious cabin configuration, which includes private suites with lie-flat beds in first class. HiFly’s A380s briefly flew between London and New York JFK for budget carrier Norwegian, which needed the jet to stand in for some of its Boeing 787s that were out of service for needed repairs to their Rolls Royce engines.
So far, Airbus says it has delivered 229 A380s.
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