- NEW: Singapore Airlines launches first commercial flight of A380 superjumbo
- Delivery comes nearly two years late; Emirates, Qantas still waiting for planes
- Problems have caused major crisis for Airbus
- Singapore Airlines says the A380 will set a “new standard for luxury and comfort.”
SINGAPORE (CNN) — A new Airbus superjumbo began its maiden flight on Thursday, closing a troubled chapter of delays and overspends for its manufacturer and opening a new one for an aviation industry dogged by environmental worries.
Flying from Singapore to Sydney, Australia, on Thursday, the enormous A380 is carrying passengers who 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 launches a new era in air travel.
The Associated Press reported the flight was carrying 455 passengers and a crew of about 30, including four pilots.
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 will mark the end of of a much longer journey for the aircraft, the delivery of which was delayed by nearly two years, with costs running billion of dollars over budget.
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 also see 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 insists 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.
In addition to Singapore Airlines, Airbus will also supply 14 customers including British Airways, Virgin, Emirates and Lufthansa with orders totaling 180 aircraft.
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.