AFP - 1 hour 33 minutes ago SYDNEY (AFP) - - Qantas landed its first A380 superjumbo here on Sunday, hopeful that its arrival will boost the Australian carrier, which has recently faced a series of mechanical problems including a mid-air blast.
The arrival of the first of the giant Airbus A380s, the world's largest passenger jet, in Australia comes as Qantas also battles rising fuel costs and global financial uncertainty.
"We are witnessing an exciting new era for Qantas but also for Australian aviation," executive general manager John Borghetti said after the plane landed at Sydney airport cheered by hundreds of Qantas staff and their families.
Borghetti said the A380s, which run on four Rolls-Royce engines and have a wingspan of about 80 metres (264 feet), were quieter and more fuel-efficient than other planes while the interiors would redefine the customer experience.
"It's so exciting. It gives the whole industry a boost, particularly so given the economic climate that we are in," Borghetti told AFP.
Borghetti said the arrival of the 350-million-dollar (290 million US) dollar A380 -- delivered to the airline in France on Friday -- would allow Qantas to keep its position at the forefront of world aviation.
Asked about the recent mechanical problems encountered by the airline, Borghetti said only: "Qantas' engineering excellence is legendary."
In July, Qantas faced a storm of negative publicity after an oxygen cylinder exploded on a flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne in July, forcing an emergency landing in Manila.
The incident was one of several that prompted the Australian aviation watchdog to urge Qantas earlier this month to improve maintenance.
Qantas was the first airline to order the A380s, committing to the double-decker craft in 2000, but delivery has been slowed by delays and budget overruns in production in Toulouse, France.
The airline's first commercial A380 service will operate between Melbourne and Los Angeles on October 20. It hopes to have taken delivery of three of the aircraft by the end of the year.
Airbus has said the aeroplane can seat 853 passengers, all in economy class. Qantas has configured its A380 to seat 450 passengers in four classes.