Major airports in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago plan to be ready for the mammoth Airbus A380 double decker passenger jet in late 2006, their operators said on Tuesday, playing down concerns raised by airline Virgin Atlantic a day earlier.
Airports need to prepare double-decker passenger ramps and reinforce roads and bridges to handle A380 flights that could carry as many as 800 passengers, changes that will cost billions of dollars in some cases.
"We are confident that LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) will be ready to accommodate the A380 with the highest standards of safety when the first airline begins using the aircraft at LAX in late 2006," operator Los Angeles World Airports said in a statement.
That is several months after Singapore Airlines is due to take delivery of the first A380 in the second quarter of 2006.
On Monday, Virgin Atlantic said it would postpone taking delivery of six A380s, citing concern that LAX would not be ready and saying it needed time to modify the all-new aircraft's cabin.
Virgin said on Tuesday, following the statement by the operator of Los Angeles airport, that there was no change in its statement.
Los Angeles is a key destination for the airlines and lessors which have ordered the long-haul plane.
Korean Air hopes to use the planes on its Seoul-Los Angeles route, for example, to serve L.A.'s large Korean-American population.
Other practical routes would connect major cities like Tokyo and London with New York, Chicago and Miami.
As many as 14 U.S. airports are preparing to accommodate the A380, including New York's John F. Kennedy International, which has embraced the megajet as a means to ease congested air traffic and reduce noise pollution with its quieter engines.
"We need to adjust not by adding flights but by adding bigger aircraft," said Pasquale DiFulco, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Last month the agency predicted the A380 would bring 1,040 jobs and $82 million in annual economic activity at JFK.
At Chicago's O'Hare, officials also expect to be ready for the A380, said spokeswoman Monique Bond.
"We are looking into and making plans to be able to accept the aircraft," Bond said.
Airbus Chief Commercial Officer John Leahy told reporters at a forum in Tokyo on Tuesday that no other airline had asked for a delay.
"Sometimes they ask for a month or two but nothing substantial," Leahy said.
Eleven airlines and lessors have ordered the A380, which seats 555 passengers in its standard configuration, supplanting rival Boeing Co's long-serving 747 jumbo jet with 416 seats as the world's largest jetliner.
Airbus is owned by EADS, which has an 80 percent stake, and Britain's BAE Systems, which owns the rest.
Improvements in Los Angeles and other cities have been delayed by factors ranging from tight budgets to legal and political hurdles to major new projects as well as security concerns in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijack attacks.