British Airways takes first UK delivery of Airbus A380 double-decker superjumbo

The delivery follows that last week of two Boeing Dreamliner aircraft as part of a £10bn British Airway's plan to upgrade its long-haul fleet

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The Independent Online

British Airways has become the first airline in the UK to take delivery of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.

The airliner, which is the world's largest passenger plane, was handed over by European plane-making company Airbus at its Toulouse headquarters in France before being flown into Heathrow airport with BA's chief executive Keith Williams among those on board.

The huge double-decker plane is set to make its first commercial long-haul flight with BA to Los Angeles on September 24, and its first flight to Hong Kong on October 22.

The delivery of the superjumbo follows that last week of two Boeing Dreamliner aircraft as part of a £10bn British Airway's plan to upgrade its long-haul fleet.

The A380, which is powered by Rolls-Royce engines, and is fitted with wings built in the UK, is 238ft-long, 79ft high, with wings that are 54% larger than those of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

It can reach a speed of 587mph and has a range of 9,500 miles, it is said to be 50% quieter on take-off.

Those travelling on the plane will find a lot of room inside as BA is configuring the massive, 238ft-long A380 to take 469 passengers, slightly fewer than some of the other superjumbo-operating airlines.

There will be just 14 seats in first class, with customers seated at the front of the main deck. They will get 30% more space than those in first class on "normal" BA planes.

The A380 first-class passengers will enjoy nightwear, a turndown service, fine dining, a champagne supper and 15-inch entertainment screens.

BA's chief executive Keith Williams said: "The A380 is a fantastic aircraft and an excellent showpiece for British engineering. Our customers are going to love the space, light and comfort on board."

Mr Williams continued: "The delivery of these exciting aircraft opens a new chapter in British Airways' history. We are proud to be leading the way in Europe in operating both these aircraft types.

He added: "These deliveries form the centrepiece of the £5 billion investment BA is making in new aircraft, smarter cabins, superb lounges and new technologies to make travel more comfortable in the air and on the ground.

"Both aircraft types make major environmental advances and will contribute toward our ambitious targets for noise and carbon reduction."

As the giant aircraft pulled up outside the BA hangar, Captain James Basnett waved a union flag from the cockpit as BA staff cheered.

Mr Williams emerged from the huge plane to declare: "This is the future of the airline."

Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: "I was impressed by the British Airways A380 when I saw it for myself at the Paris Air show last month. I am proud that around 40% of this iconic aircraft is made in the UK by a range of aerospace manufacturers of all sizes - from our large global companies through to small enterprises.

"With its Rolls-Royce Trent engines and state-of-the-art wings, the A380 slashes travel emissions while boosting efficiency. Coupled with British Airways, a world-leading airline, the A380 really is a great example of the best of British in aviation."

Those travelling in first class on the A380 to Los Angeles between September 2013 and the end of March 2014 will pay from £3,799 return for their trips, with the first-class fare for the period October 22 to December 8 2013 to Hong Kong starting at £5,800.