UPS, the world's largest package-delivery company, has ordered 10 A380 superjumbos from Airbus, reflecting its need for bigger aircraft to cope with surging trade between the U.S. and Asia.
The order came a week before the giant A380 was unveiled.
Following the UPS deal, Airbus has sold 149 of the aircraft, more than halfway towards the 250 it must sell for the $12 billion project to break even.
However, UPS also said it was reducing a previous order of Airbus's smaller A300 aircraft -- to be used mainly on domestic U.S. routes -- from 90 to 53.
The twin announcement signaled UPS's expectation that international rather than domestic trade would be the company's biggest source of growth in the next few years.
"Our international business is growing strongly and we expect that to continue, particularly in Asia," UPS said. "The A380 will help us meet that demand because it flies further and carries more cargo."
UPS experienced a doubling in business out of China in the third quarter of last year alone, putting a strain on its limited number of landing slots in the country.
The A380 will have the capacity to carry a third more cargo and fly more than twice as far as the Boeing 747, currently the largest aircraft in UPS's fleet.
UPS is expected to take delivery of its A380s between 2009 and 2012. The company agreed an option to buy an additional 10 should more be needed.
Financial details were not disclosed but the list price of 10 superjumbos is about $2.8 billion. The deal matched the order that FedEx, the number two package-delivery company, has already made with Airbus for 10 A380s with an option for 10 more.