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British Airways Places Huge US, European Aircraft Order


Britain's largest air carrier - British Airways - has placed its biggest aircraft order in nearly a decade. For VOA, Tom Rivers in London says it spells good news for both European and U.S. manufacturers.

Since the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, the international airline industry has faced tough economic times.

But for at least for one carrier, British Airways, better times appear to be ahead.

Europe's third-largest airline has decided to replace its aging Boeing 747 fleet with two new planes, the Airbus A-380 super-jumbo and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The huge, 525-seat, A-380 double-decker plane will increase passenger numbers on flights to Hong Kong, Los Angeles and San Francisco from London Heathrow, where takeoff slots are limited.

The order will boost capacity by four percent annually.

The smaller 787s, which seat about 250 people, will operate to New York and additional destinations the carrier plans to serve.

British Airways Chief Executive Willie Walsh says the two different aircraft from two firms fits his company's future needs perfectly.

"Both of these aircraft work incredibly well for us given the network of destination that we serve," Walsh said. "We fly to 142 destinations around the world and that is a mix of routes where on some there is quite high demand and others frequency is important. So, the mix gives us great flexibility not just for the network that exists today, but for our future network plans as well."

A dozen A-380s and two-dozen 787s have been ordered. Delivery of the planes is expected between 2010 and 2014.

The total price tag, before an undisclosed discount, comes in at $8.2 billion.

The airline also has options to purchase 25 additional aircraft in the future.

British Airways says the new planes will be quieter, more environmentally-friendly, and more fuel-efficient with lower carbon-dioxide emissions.

All of the aircraft will be powered by British Rolls-Royce engines.

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