BA backs plans for 600-seat aircraft

British Airways yesterday gave its backing to the launch of a new generation of super jumbo jets, forecasting that 600-seat aircraft would be flying in significant numbers early in the next century.

In evidence to the Heathrow Terminal 5 planning inquiry, BA's chief executive, Bob Ayling, said the airline remained committed to introducing larger and more cost-efficient aircraft.

"We believe there is a need for such aircraft to be introduced in the early years of the next decade. In our opinion, whilst the phasing of fleet plans in the short term may be reassessed, there is no basis for assuming that larger aircraft, including 600-seaters, will not be flying in significant numbers by the time Terminal 5 is fully operational," said Mr Ayling.

His comments follow Boeing's decision to shelve the $7bn (pounds 4.3bn) development of a 550-seat successor to the 747 jumbo jet and remarks earlier this week by British Aerospace, one of the partners in Airbus, casting doubt on how committed the European aircraft consortium was to launching its own super jumbo, code-named the A3XX.

Ironically, it was BA's decision not to be a launch customer for the planned Boeing 747-600X which ultimately forced the US aircraft manufacturer to abandon the project.

However, Mr Ayling said that BA's long-term predictions were "unaffected" by Boeing's decision, indicating that it remained keen on adding super jumbos to its fleet.

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