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Japan s biggest airline deals blow to hopes for Airbus super jumbo.

ATTEMPTS by Airbus to break American rival Boeing's grip on the Japanese airliner market have taken a severe blow.

Japan Airlines said it was unlikely to become a customer for the European aircraft manufacturer's flagship jet - the A380 super jumbo.

Wings for the double decker plane are made at the West Wing factory at Airbus's Deeside aerospace complex which provides work for thousands of skilled workers from Merseyside and Cheshire.

The Tokyo-based carrier, which operates the nation's biggest aircraft fleet, said it was unlikely to buy the A380 because the aircraft did not fit into its strategy of using smaller planes.

"Right now, we're not considering the plane," said Japan Airlines' incoming president, Haruka Nishimatsu. "If our rivals do well using the plane to offer luxury service to passengers, we'll have another look."

The lack of interest is a major setback to Airbus which is seeking new customers for the world's biggest civilian jet and is trying to make inroads into the lucrative Japanese market.

Airbus is pitching the A380 to Asian airlines for long-haul routes, but the Japanese carrier is opting for smaller planes that will be easier to fill to capacity. The Tokyo-based airline is retiring its Boeing 747 jumbo jets, closest in size to the A380s, and replacing them with smaller aircraft. It has 25 Airbus planes and 134 Boeing planes in its fleet.

Last November, Airbus's Japan president, Glen Fukushima, said he was confident he would win orders in Japan for the A380. So far, 16 airlines around the world have placed a total of 159 orders for the jet, but there have been no takers so far this ye a r.

Catalogue prices for the giant jet ranges from pounds 150m to pounds 160m and the aircraft can seat 555 passengers in a standard three-class configuration or 850 in one - class.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 13, 2006
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