Deliveries of Asiana's A380s are scheduled to begin in 2014, be completed in 2017 and Airbus says the airline plans to operate the aircraft...

South Korea’s Asiana Airlines has become a new customer for the Airbus A380 super-jumbo, with a firm order for six aircraft valued at about $1.8 billion.

Deliveries of Asiana’s A380s are scheduled to begin in 2014, be completed in 2017 and Airbus says the airline plans to operate the aircraft with a premium lay-out on key routes to Europe and the United States. The carrier will make an engine selection for its Airbus A380 fleet in the near future, according to Airbus.

“With the A380 Asiana will be able to take its award-winning service to a new level, offering the very highest standards of comfort in the sky,” says Yoon Young-Doo, president and CEO of Asiana Airlines. “At the same time, the significantly reduced operating costs and fuel efficiencies afforded by the aircraft will enable us to enhance our productivity and reduce our carbon footprint. This is in line with our policy to operate one of the most modern and environmentally-friendly fleets in the world.”

Asiana Airlines of South Korea has ordered six Airbus A380 super-jumbos and expects to take delivery of its first in 2014. Rival Korean Air previously ordered 10 A380s and is due to receive its first four aircraft in 2011

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Asiana Airlines as the latest world class customer for the A380,” says John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating officer customers. “The order is a further endorsement of the A380 as the most efficient tool to meet demand on the world’s most heavily travelled routes, especially out of the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. With the A380 in its fleet Asiana will be able to increase its share of international traffic and reinforce its well-deserved status as one of the world’s premier carriers.”

Asiana Airlines is the first new confirmed customer for the A380 since Réunion’s Air Austral ordered two in November 2009. Although Japan’s Skymark Airlines announced in November 2010 that it was in negotiations with Airbus to order four A380s and option two more, Skymark’s planned order is not yet listed on Airbus’ orders web page. Skymark said it planned eventually to operate as many as 15 A380s.

Star Alliance member Asiana’s order is also the largest new-customer A380 order since British Airways placed a firm order for 12 of the type in 2007. However, Emirates announced a repeat order for 32 A380s at the Farnborough International Airshow in July 2010, an order which in its own right is a bigger A380 commitment than that of any other airline.

Emirates had already placed firm orders for 58 A380s and with 90 A380s now ordered is by a very long way the largest customer for the type – though Emirates has indicated it is likely to order even more A380s in coming years and has said it would like to receive its aircraft even more quickly than its contratced delivery schedule calls for.

Asiana’s A380 order is clearly designed as a head-to-head competitive response to South Korean rival Korean Air. SkyTeam-alliance member Korean Air is also an A380 customer, with 10 on order, and it is due to receive its first four aircraft in 2011, with the first delivery due in May.

Korean Air has configured its A380s to seat just 407 passengers, the lowest-density cabin lay-out for any A380 operator so far, and is dedicating the entire upper deck of each A380 as a 94-seat business-class cabin. Korean Air will provide a 12-seat first-class cabin at the front of the lower deck and 301 economy-class seats will occupy the remainder of the lower deck.

Since entering service in 2007 the A380 has recorded a fuel-burn performance that confirms it consumes less than three litres of fuel per passenger per 100 kilometres. Meanwhile, the A380’s quiet cabin and smooth flight profile have made the aircraft a favorite with passengers, with most existing A380 operators (and some competitors) publicly noting a marked “A380 effect” in which customers actively book on the A380 in preference to other aircraft types on the same routes.

According to Airbus, this “A380 effect” has resulted in higher-than-average load factors and increased profitability on A380 flights, providing airlines with a competitive advantage wherever they operate the type.

Typically seating 525 passengers in a three-class layout (though several existing operators have configured their A380s to seat fewer passengers), the A380 is capable of flying 8,300 nautical miles (15,300 kilometres) non-stop, enabling direct service from Seoul to Europe and the U.S.

Following the January 6 announcement of Asiana Airlines‘ order, total firm orders for the A380 stand at 240 from 18 customers worldwide.