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Superjumbo ends historic flight

  • Story Highlights
  • Singapore Airlines A380 superjumbo ends historic maiden flight
  • Delivery comes nearly two years late; Emirates, Qantas still waiting for planes
  • Problems have caused major crisis for Airbus
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SINGAPORE (CNN) -- The world's biggest jetliner ever built completed its first commercial flight on Thursday, a new chapter in air transportation.

The Singapore Airlines-owned Airbus A380 superjumbo touched down in foggy Sydney, Australia, at 5:24 p.m. local time (0724 GMT), just over seven hours after it began its historic flight from Singapore. The airline was carrying nearly 500 passengers and crew. Some passengers bid up to $100,000 for a seat on the historical trip.

The superjumbo took off on schedule at 8.16 a.m. (0016 GMT) on a 7 1/2-hour flight that launched a new era in air travel.

The Associated Press reported the flight carried 455 passengers and a crew of about 30, including four pilots. Among the passengers was CNN's Richard Quest. Video Watch superjumbo land in Sydney. »

"It was an amazing experience," Quest said, shortly after disembarking the plane in Sydney.

"There was a cheer on take-off, a cheer on landing. There was a party atmosphere." Video Watch Quest's excitement at traveling on superjumbo. »

Airports have had to redesign terminals to accommodate the the world's largest passenger jet, which has a wingspan of nearly 80 meters.

The 6,300-kilometer (3,900 mile) Singapore Airlines scheduled flight marked the end of a much longer journey for the aircraft, the delivery of which was delayed by nearly two years, with costs running billions of dollars over budget.

Superjumbo in the Sky
Overdue and over budget, the world's largest passenger jet takes flight.
October 26, 2200 GMT on CNN

The problems left Airbus in crisis, forcing the manufacturer to cut 10,000 jobs and sell off plants in a major reshuffle as it struggled against a weak dollar and stiff competition from U.S. rival Boeing. The delays led to canceled orders.

In October 2006, Christian Streiff resigned as Airbus CEO. Louis Gallois took over. Virgin Atlantic deferred its order for four years to 2013.

Critics have seen the jet as an environmental concern at a time when the aviation industry is under pressure as one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide, seen as a key factor in global warning.

Airbus has insisted the A380, capable of carrying up to 850 people in all-economy mode, is more fuel efficient and is banking on the jet to open up a new front in the battle for the commercial skies.

While Airbus is likely to be buoyed by delays to Boeing's rival creation -- a jet promising faster, more environmentally-friendly flights -- orders for the 787 Dreamliner aircraft are now in excess of 710 from 51 customers. Video Watch A380's troubled birth. »

In addition to Singapore Airlines, Airbus will also supply 14 customers including British Airways, Virgin, Emirates and Lufthansa with orders totaling 180 aircraft.

"This is clearly the plane that will be required for certain routes where you need to move large numbers of people," says Richard Quest.

""But I do not believe that in the short term, people are going to buy this plane in the dozens in the same way they bought the 747."

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Singapore Airlines will begin fully scheduled A380 flights to Sydney on Sunday. A superjumbo service on the Singapore-London route is expected to start in February.

The airline says its jets will set a "new standard for luxury and comfort," fitted with 399 economy seats, 60 business seats and 12 Givenchy-designed "suites" featuring a flat bed behind sliding doors. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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