Korean Air has confirmed that the A380 will play a significant role in its future growth plans by signing a firm contract for the purchase of five aircraft, plus three options. Korean Air will initially introduce the A380 on high density traffic routes from Seoul to the US west coast, with subsequent destinations likely to include cities on the US east coast and Europe. Deliveries to Korean Air are scheduled to take place between late 2007 and 2009.

The contract was signed at a ceremony immediately prior to the opening of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines annual Assembly of Presidents' meeting on Jeju Island, South Korea today.

With Korean Air's confirmation, Airbus has 121 firm orders plus eight commitments, making a total of 129, from 11 customers for the A380 programme.

"Our decision to purchase the A380 aircraft meets our strategy to reinforce Incheon Intl Airport as the strongest hub in Northeast Asia," said Yang Ho Cho, Chairman and CEO of Korean Air. "As one of the leading airlines in Asia, our long-term fleet plan plays a significant role in this strategy. The A380 will clearly be the flagship of the 21st century and Korean Air is proud to be one of the first airlines to operate the aircraft in Asia"

Noël Forgeard, Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer, said "Airbus aircraft have always proven to be extremely popular with Asian carriers and it is particularly satisfying to see Korean Air, our first and oldest customer outside Europe selecting the A380 for its future growth requirements. The advanced technology A380 will provide Korean Air with lower operating costs, greater range and outstanding new standards of comfort for its passengers."

Airbus' relationship with Korean Air dates back to 1974, when the airline became Airbus' first customer outside Europe. Today, the carrier remains one of Airbus' largest customers in the region, having previously placed orders for 51 widebody types comprising 32 A300s and 19 A330s.

A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.