Page last updated at 05:24 GMT, Sunday, 11 April 2004 06:24 UK

Heathrow prepares for superjumbo

Airbus A380 passenger jet, Airbus
Airbus's A380 jet is the first fully double-decked aircraft

A 100m redevelopment scheme has started at Heathrow airport to accommodate the new double-decker, 550-seater Airbus A380 superjumbo.

The project is due to be completed by the end of 2005, in time for the first A380 to start operating at Heathrow in spring 2006.

A pier at Terminal 3 will be demolished to make more space for the massive wingspan of the plane.

The new development will be 280m long and stand three storeys high.

It is designed to allow passengers to board and leave the jumbo from both levels of the aircraft, which will be fitted with shops, sleeping areas, creche and exercise room.

Mick Temple, managing director of airports operator BAA, said that preparations for A380 were going well and were right on schedule.

"The A380 will be an important aircraft for Heathrow... but we are also ensuring that our new facilities can accommodate all types of aircraft and meet the needs of all our airlines," he said.

Four aircraft stands will be built along the new pier, which is designed to serve the future generation of aircraft, including the medium-sized Airbus A320.

Airlines planning to operate the A380 at Heathrow include Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Malaysia Airlines.

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