Malaysia Airlines will become a new Airbus A380 operator. The airline's parent company Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad (PMB) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus to acquire six Airbus A380-800 passenger aircraft which will be leased to the Malaysian flag carrier.

Deliveries to Malaysia Airlines are scheduled to begin in 2007. Current planning will see the airline operate the A380s on key trunk routes. Engine choice is yet to be determined.

With Malaysia Airlines' selection, Airbus has now 103 orders and commitments from 10 customers for the A380 programme. Built to the latest and most stringent certification requirements, the 555-seater A380 embodies the most advanced technologies, providing 15 to 20 per cent lower operating costs than the largest aircraft flying today and 10 to 15 per cent more range.

"This is a major transaction which we believe will bring long term benefits to PMB, Malaysia Airlines and our customers. This purchase meets our requirements for the future and we expect the A380s to become a key part of our fleet," said Dato' Gumuri Hussain, PMB Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.

"With this acquisition, we believe Malaysia Airlines would be even better equipped to sustain and improve on our position as a premier carrier with the latest product offering," said Malaysia Airlines' Managing Director Dato' Md Nor Yusof. We are very well positioned in the region and combined with the encouraging traffic growth on our flagship long-haul routes, slot constraints in our key destinations and the A380s expected cost advantages, we believe there is a strong economic rationale for this addition to the fleet, even more so by the time we take delivery in 2007."

Nol Forgeard, Airbus Chief Executive Officer said: "We are indeed delighted that Malaysia Airlines, one of the world's most dynamic carriers, will join the club of renowned airlines having gone the A380 way. I am confident that the aircraft will play a pivotal role in Malaysia Airlines' long-term growth. Furthermore, this decision demonstrates once more that the A380 is the right aircraft with the right economics and passenger appeal, which arrives at the right time to respond to airline needs."

Airbus' presence in Malaysia dates back to 1978 when Malaysia Airlines placed its first order for the A300B4, becoming one of the early Airbus customers. The carrier currently operates nine Airbus A330 aircraft. In October 2002, Airbus reinforced its ties with Malaysia through an agreement with Composites Technology Research Malaysia (CTRM) as a key supplier for A380 wing components, adding to earlier agreements covering composites work for the A300 and A320 family of aircraft.

When it enters into service in 2006, the A380 will offer all the advantages of a completely new design, while retaining maximum commonality with the existing Airbus aircraft family. Passengers will experience a new way of flying in the A380, benefiting from a spacious cabin and wider seats, including those in economy class; while airlines will reap the benefits stemming from Airbus' unique operational commonality inherent in its fly-by-wire family of aircraft, as well as from lower operating costs. A "friendly neighbour," it will quietly ease congestion problems at major airports.

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.