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Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 10:45 GMT
Heathrow faces 150m A380 bill
Airbus' A3XX in flight
Superjumbos will place more demands on Heathrow
The UK airport operator BAA will have to invest about 150m ($220m) in London's Heathrow airport to enable it to handle the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

A BAA spokeswoman said the verges of both runways would have to be widened as well as exits to the taxiways.

Aircraft stands would have to be modified and new facilities built at terminals three and four to cope with the extra volume of passengers passing through the airport.

In the longer term, the building of terminal five - a 2bn project expected to obtain government approval in 2001 - would be "vital" for accommodating superjumbos in any numbers, the spokeswoman said.

Heathrow's four A380 carriers

BAA said it was expecting one or two A380s a day in the early days of the aircraft's service but that this would place considerable extra pressure on check-in, immigration and baggage claim facilities.

Up to seven of the planes on the ground could be handled at one time, before any additional capacity from a fifth terminal.

So far, six groups have confirmed orders for A380s. Four of them - Emirates, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways - are expected to use the planes on routes to and from Heathrow.

The 555-seat superjumbos are seen by airlines as a way of increasing capacity at heavily congested airports such as Heathrow where there is little scope for more flights.

Following the Virgin order - announced in mid-December - the A380 maker, Airbus Industrie was expected to give the project the formal go-ahead.

Virgin had ordered six A380s - a purchase regarded as crucial because it gave the manufacturer orders for 50 of the planes - the level it said it needed to justify starting commercial production of what will be the world's largest civilian airliner.

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